Employers face difficult decisions about pay when employees returning from Spain are forced to quarantine

29 Jul 2020

The sudden change to the Spanish air bridge at the weekend has left hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers unexpectedly having to quarantine for 14 days on return from their holiday. With reports that other countries such as France could follow, and the Foreign Secretary’s statement that employees cannot be penalised by their employers if they quarantine for 14 days, there has been some uncertainty as to what employers should do regarding pay for employees having to quarantine on return from holiday in circumstances where their role cannot be undertaken from home.
If individuals do not have symptoms of Covid-19 or any other illness then they will not be entitled to statutory sick pay or, in the vast majority of cases, company sick pay. It may be possible to agree a further period of annual leave to cover the 14 days quarantine period, though not all will have sufficient holiday remaining to cover the entire period.
In the absence of any express contractual entitlement to pay or sufficient additional holiday entitlement, employers are unfortunately left in a position where, if roles cannot be undertaken from home, they must decide whether to exercise their discretion to pay employees who are quarantining. When setting the rate of any such pay, employers will be mindful of any future changes to air bridges and the impact of setting a precedent with regard to quarantine pay.
The unknown and changing landscape means that many employers will be having difficult conversations with employees returning from Spain about unpaid leave, in circumstances where those employees may feel the government’s message should provide them with additional entitlements.  

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