Taking Holidays & Travelling During Coronavirus

With travel restrictions starting to ease after months of lockdown, there is one thing on a lot of peoples’ minds…holidays. For many of us, lockdown has meant cancelled holidays, missed events abroad and not being able to see relatives who live further afield. It is only natural that we want to travel. However, there are some considerations to be made from an employment/workplace perspective to ensure that 1) employees are not put at risk and 2) so that employers are protected.

For example, if an employee travels to a medium or high-risk area, should there be a requirement for them to quarantine? As an employer you have a duty of care to all of your employees.  Some of your employees maybe more at risk than others, for example if they have any underlying conditions such as asthma or conditions which suppress immune responses. As an employer you should consider whether you will allow members of staff who are returning from a holiday abroad to return to the workplace? Or will you require them to isolate for 14 days to protect the rest of your workforce?  Or will you require them to work based at home, if that is possible?

You may wish to consider implementing a policy that requires employees who choose to travel to a country which requires a period of self isolation on return, to take this as annual leave.  This would have to be clearly communicated in advance of the holiday been taken, to give the employee the opportunity to decide whether they wish to take a three week break from work, in order to travel to another country for 7 days.

While flying may not have been given the green light by the Scottish government yet, will people use other methods of travel to go on holiday? Considerations will need to go hand in hand with government guidance but will some companies adopt their own policies on the

While some employees are reluctant to take annual leave due to not being able to travel, employers should be encouraging employees to use annual leave especially as this would be peak holiday season. With schools and holiday clubs being closed, employees with children may feel the benefit of using some annual leave as this would help with childcare responsibilities and give them a much needed break. We all require a break from work for our well being, taking some downtime, switching off from work, screens and calls.  For those who have worked through the lockdown, it has been demanding and at times relentless and the opportunity to switch off is to be encouraged and applauded.

So, employers should

  • Consider what, if any holiday entitlement can be carried over into 2021
  • Communicate this clearly to all employees and be clear that unused holiday would be forfeited
  • Revisit and review holiday approval procedures and ensure that it meets business needs in the light of any return to work arrangements or change to furlough requirements. It could be that during flexible furlough or the changes to furlough payment entitlements that the opportunity to be paid 100% through holiday entitlement would be welcomed by employees
  • Keep reviewing guidelines on holiday travel, quarantine restrictions and the requirement to self isolate on return from other countries. This may change without notice as the virus infection rates fluctuate, and lockdown measures are reviewed and at times tightened without much notice.  This is an evolving set of circumstances and we should be prepared for varying sets of contingencies.
  • Encourage taking holidays for personal wellbeing and productivity purposes. Be aware that you can require employees to take holidays with sufficient notice, 2 days of notice for each day of holiday, so 10 days notice for 5 days of holiday.
  • As always clear and consistent communication is best practice and pays dividends.

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