ABTOT Associate Travlaw addresses the questions for Staff taking holidays under the Traffic Light system!

In an industry which is desperate to see holiday bookings being made and indeed the public being able to travel abroad, do employers have the same views when it comes to their own staff travelling abroad? As we approach the announcement of which countries will fall into which category under the traffic light system, employers may well need all hands to deck, but on the other hand want to display confidence to the public that those who work in the travel industry have the confidence to travel abroad. With that in mind, I go through some of the questions that employers are likely to have:

Can we request to know which country staff are travelling to?
Working in the travel industry most employers are likely to know the destination of where their employees are travelling to. However there is nothing to stop employers asking for the destination on the annual leave request form and updating your policy, naturally explaining why this information is needed. Not only could this information be important to determine the likelihood of post-holiday quarantine, but also so employers know exactly which staff can be in the office and therefore safeguarding the health and safety of your other staff working in the office.

What should employers be communicating to staff regarding annual leave?
Employers need to be upfront and clear about what happens if staff have to quarantine, so that staff can make an informed decision (as best as they can!) when deciding to travel abroad. Will staff be permitted to take paid annual leave during any period of quarantine, or will it be unpaid leave? Alternatively will staff be allowed to work from home if they can during any period of quarantine, or will this cause unfairness for those staff who cannot work from home.

Is it ok to ask staff to work during a period of quarantine?
Obviously quarantining staff cannot be asked to attend the work place, but they can work from home if they are able to and the employer permits this. In some instances this could involve employees working from quarantine hotels and therefore employers should discuss with their staff how this is going to work in practical terms. Some employers may not permit working from home during any period of quarantine, to prevent unfairness to those of its staff who cannot work from home and would therefore have to take further annual leave or unpaid leave in order to quarantine.

If staff can’t work during a period of quarantine do employers have to pay them?
In short, no! If a member of staff has to quarantine, cannot work and has no COVID symptoms, then they will not be entitled to SSP. The options for that member of staff with agreement of the employer are either to make up the time spent during quarantine, use annual leave or take unpaid time off. If staff are ill and are also having to quarantine then of course they may be entitled to sick pay.

As an employer if we are nervous about staff travelling abroad to a certain country, could we cancel their annual leave?
Technically yes- either by following your annual leave policy or under the Working Time Regulations (giving as much notice as the leave that is to be cancelled). However employees will need to be given an explanation as to why the leave has been cancelled. Employees may object and say that an employer is acting unreasonably or in breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence. Moreover they may ask to be compensated; for example if they are out of pocket.

Can employers tell staff not to go abroad on holiday? Unlikely that employers in the travel industry will advocate this and in any event, what staff does during their annual leave is up to them. What employers can do is encourage staff to book and indeed go on trips abroad in line with government guidelines, which may involve a period of quarantine.

If you would like to discuss any of the above or need help updating your holiday policies, please get in touch.

For further details please contact ami@travlaw.co.uk
or call 0113 258 0033