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‘Will I be paid if I have to self-isolate after my holiday in Spain?’

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27/07/2020
Holidaymakers returning to the UK from Spain must now self-isolate for two weeks. This surprise move is a cause for concern for Brits, particularly when it comes to their pay.

The government removed Spain from the list of ‘travel corridor’ countries meaning anyone who arrives in the UK from Spain or its islands from yesterday must quarantine for 14 days.

With travellers given minimal notice about the change, many are rightly concerned about what this means for their pay as they’ll be forced to stay at home in a bid to prevent any holidaymakers passing on the virus in case they’re infected.

In our latest coronavirus work and holiday Q&A with Kate Palmer, associate director of advisory at global employment law consultancy Peninsula, we find out what holidaymakers need to know…

Q) Will I get Statutory Sick Pay during self-isolation?

A) not automatically, no. Whilst SSP applies to other types of self-isolation, it does not apply here. You would only be entitled to SSP if a separate self-isolation reason applied at the same time, for example, having symptoms of coronavirus.

However, the government has urged employers to show flexibility to workers who have to self-isolate due to the rule change, adding that no employee should be penalised for following the rules.

Q) I can’t work from home during quarantine – can I be furloughed instead?

A) Possibly, but you would need to meet the qualifying criteria for furlough including having already been furloughed for a minimum of three weeks between March and the end of June. Furlough has to be agreed between employer and employee so you can’t insist on this.

Q) Can my boss force me to take unpaid leave for the isolation period?

A) Theoretically, yes. There are many ways an employer could look to cover the self-isolation period and one of them could be unpaid leave because there is no statutory requirement to make any payment to you during this time.

Q) I’m on holiday in Spain and due to return to the UK this week – what should I do in terms of preparation, such as contacting my boss/HR?

A) It would be advisable to get in touch with your boss to discuss how the self-isolation period will be covered. You may want to ask what policies your employer has in relation to self-isolation but you should bear in mind that employers are under no obligation to pay you during this type of self-isolation. There are a few ways your employer could deal with it so that you will still get paid which may need talking through, including working from home so if equipment needs to be arranged to be sent to your home address so you can do this, the more time to prepare, the better.

Q) If I cut my holiday short so I have less ‘work time’ to quarantine, will this be viewed favourably by my boss?

A) Probably, yes. But you’re under no obligation to do this and it may incur extra costs for you, so think carefully about this. It may be best to get in touch with your employer to talk it through before making any decisions like that.

Q) I’m going to miss an important deadline as I need to quarantine and I’m worried it’ll mean I miss out on a future bonus. What can I do?

A) Speak to your employer about the prospect of working from home so that you can still meet the deadline; it is likely that it’s as much in their interests as yours for you to meet the deadline. If this isn’t possible, ask your employer if they are willing to apply some discretion to the bonus system and allow an extension to the deadline, or some other flexibility.

Q) If I show no signs of Covid-19 after a week, can I return to work?

A) It is advised that full self-isolation periods are observed. In addition, employers are expected to support employees to remain at home for the full period.

Q) I’m due to travel to Spain. Can my boss ask me to cancel this holiday as they can’t afford for me to take an extra two weeks off to isolate?

A) Yes because the law gives employers the right to cancel a period of leave that has previously been authorised, provided they give you the required length of notice which is the same length of time as the holiday in question. If you had booked five days’ leave, your employer would have to give you five calendar days’ notice of cancellation.

Even though this right exists, your employer should still act within reason and if they don’t, they may be in breach of the implied right to trust and confidence which could entitle you to resign and claim constructive dismissal if you have two years’ service.

Q) If I can’t usually work from home, can I be given other tasks to do at home to help out the company and get paid?

A) This may be a possibility but will depend on the type of work available and your employer’s circumstances. It is advisable to speak to your employer about any arrangements that can be made to permit work to be done at home.

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