Employees could end up being sacked or being put on unpaid leave if they are forced to quarantine after coming back from Spain, say lawyers.
British holidaymakers who travelled to Spain before the government announced it was imposing a 14-day quarantine on their return could find themselves in difficulties with their employers if they can’t work from home, say lawyers.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said no worker following quarantine guidance should be penalised by employers, but the Department for Business admits that there is no law protecting employees, or specific government help, for those who lose out because of quarantine.
Abigail Maino, a senior associate at city law firm DMH Stallard, said: “Most employers will no doubt be sympathetic to this sudden change in government policy and its unexpected impact on employees, but many employers will not be in a position to pay employees for 14 days if they are in roles which cannot be undertaken from home.
“Dominic Raab’s statement that employees cannot be dismissed or penalised if they quarantine for 14 days is not underpinned by law in certain circumstances. For example, those with under two years’ service do not qualify for unfair dismissal rights and some employers may decide to dismiss if those individuals cannot attend work for 14 days, and cannot work from home.”
She added that employees cannot claim statutory sick pay or company sick pay if they have no symptoms of Covid-19. It is therefore down to company discretion to pay employees who are quarantining.
She said: “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.”
Teachers have been warned by the Department for Education not to travel abroad towards the end of the summer holidays to avoid being in a quarantine situation at the start of term.
Meanwhile, a survey by insurance firm Canada Life has found that over one in three people who have been working from home want a vaccine or an antibody test before returning to the office.
Paul Avis of Canada Life said: “Workers are, unsurprisingly, anxious about returning to the physical workplace. After such a long period of time working from home, many of us have developed new ways of working and fallen into new routines, and while lots of workers are looking forward to getting ‘back to normal’, many feel like the ‘new normal’ will never be the same as it was. But as anyone who may have spent the last few months working from a single bedroom flat will testify, a return to the workplace will come as a welcome relief alongside all the social benefits that brings. Employers have a clear responsibility to ensure their workers feel safe returning to the workplace.”