Now that restrictions on international travel begin to ease across the UK, many of us will be yearning to jet off somewhere hot with their family this summer. Whilst we all want our employees to take a well-earned break, it also presents dilemmas on how employers navigate issues around holiday leave, quarantine and periods for self-isolation.
We’ve put together this simple guide to help you tackle those tricky holiday requests and dilemmas this summer as UK restrictions ease.
Requirement to quarantine
Employees could be asked to self-isolate for up to 10 days following their return to the UK.
There could be a valid reason for your employee to go abroad, such as family wedding or sick relative, so employers should take a sympathetic approach where possible and not dismiss their request for leave until you understand the full circumstances.
Consider whether you can accommodate the period of self-isolation, i.e. supporting home working arrangements or even working from a quarantine hotel.
Statutory sick pay and post-holiday quarantine
Statutory sick pay is not available where a healthy employee cannot work because they are required to self-isolate on their return from a trip abroad.
However, employers should consider offering unpaid leave in order to quarantine. In circumstances where the employee has travelled abroad to deal with a family emergency, the quarantine period could be taken as compassionate leave.
Dealing with influx of holiday requests
It’s likely you’ll see an influx in holiday requests come through for the school summer holidays following the lift on the travel ban.
To help anticipate any problems, remind all your employees to give as much notice as possible on holiday requests, setting out that they’ll be granted on a first come – first served basis, as well as operational circumstances of the business.
Remind employees that requests can be turned down if:
- They cannot be accommodated for operational reasons, or
- The employee has provided insufficient notice
If you don’t have a Holiday Notice Request Policy currently in place, employees must give notice equivalent to at least twice as many days as the number of days they wish to take. Employers can give counter notice requiring that the leave not be taken, as long as the counter notice is equivalent to the length of the holiday requested.
Cancelling of Leave and carrying holiday forward
Travel restrictions are changing daily and it’s likely that employees who have requested leave may want to cancel last minute.
Employers don’t have to agree to an employee’s request to cancel holiday that is already booked, unless the employee has the right to cancel annual leave under their contract of employment. However, you should be as flexible as possible and take into account the needs of the business and the employee’s personal circumstances when making a decision.
Employers concerned about annual leave build-up across their workforce can make use of the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 [https://www.xperthr.co.uk/employment-law-manual/holiday-and-holiday-pay/20366/#coronavirus-and-carrying-forward-leave], which came into force on 26 March 2020.
These Regulations allow up to four weeks’ annual leave to be carried over into the next two holiday years where it has not been “reasonably practicable” for employees to take it as a result of the effects of the pandemic.
Build-up of substantial leave untaken
Some employees may be reluctant to take holiday with so much uncertainty surrounding restrictions which may amount to a substantial amount of leave untaken throughout 2020/21.
You should encourage staff to take a portion of their leave over the summer, especially if you know that business can be quieter during this period.
Employees with children
Employees with children may find it hard to struggle to balance their childcare responsibilities with work, and they may ask for extra flexibility.
In this case, the following furlough scheme applies:
Furlough scheme changes this summer
- Employers can continue to claim 80% of workers’ pay until 30 June
- From 1 July to 31 July, employers must contribute 10% of workers’ pay, with the government paying 70%
- From 1 August to 30 September, employers must contribute 20% of workers’ pay, with the government paying 60%
- The furlough scheme is expected to close at the end of September
You have no obligation to agree to an employee’s request to be furloughed this summer. However, the Government’s guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme makes clear that furlough is an option when an employee has childcare problems.
If you need help navigating the ever-changing Employment Law surrounding furlough, quarantine and holiday leave, please feel free to book a consultation with us.