We’re sure you were glued to the news last week waiting to know what will and won’t be allowed for our summer holidays this year so we’ve pulled together just a couple of useful resources for you with things you should be aware of when it comes to your employee travel plans in 2021.
If you want the full Gov news story it can be read here and there are lots of links to further info including the lists of which countries are on the red, amber or green lists Government confirms traffic light list ahead of cautious return to international travel – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) – worth book marking as those lists will be updated every three weeks.
This graphic is a handy reminder of the current situation and we imagine that not much will change regarding these procedures – what will change of course is which countries are on the green, amber or red list as that is being reviewed every three weeks. We know right now that very few countries are on the green list, and of those that are, not all are accepting visitors from the UK anyway. One important thing to note is that whilst it is no longer illegal from 17 May to travel abroad, it is still strongly advised not to travel for anything other than essential trips to any amber or red countries, and the Government are warning of continued long delays at border controls.
Traffic Light System
You may have employees desperate to book some time away in the sun, and of course by mid-June it may be that many more holiday destinations are on that all important green list.
If you haven’t done so yet now would be a good time to talk to staff about holiday and employee travel plans.
Even if people don’t plan to travel overseas yet they should still take time away from work to have a rest period – it can be tricky to manage if you get to the final three months of the year and everyone has a lot of holiday to use up – don’t forget you can ask furloughed employees to take holiday too (if you top their pay up to 100%)
If employee travel plans included overseas this summer (perhaps there are family or other reasons why they must travel) you need to agree how they will manage any require period of isolation for amber or red countries on their return – can they work from home (or the quarantine hotel) or will they need to take longer off work (holiday or unpaid leave) and is that feasible?
When travelling to a country on the green list, whilst no self-isolation is required – are you happy to have them back in the workplace or would you prefer they took the additional time off / worked from home until they got the PCR test results after day 2?
If you are doing regular lateral flow tests for anyone in the workplace (either at work if you have that set up or home testing) where will anyone returning from travel fit into that schedule – do you want them to do any additional tests before returning to the workplace?
Whilst it seems unlikely now that we would have the situation as we did previously where a country’s status changes at short notice it could of course happen (if this last year has taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected!) so it would be sensible to have discussed in advance with employees what would be the situation if there were sudden changes to the red, amber, green lists whilst they were away that meant they were unexpectedly required to isolate or even quarantine in a hotel on return – could they work or would they need to take additional holiday or unpaid leave?
Other holiday considerations
Remember you cannot use furlough to pay people just because they are on holiday or because they are isolating after travel – most recent guidance is here Check if you can claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) – it explicitly states: You can only place employees on furlough if coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting your operations. You should not place employees on furlough just because they are going to be on paid leave
Other than with overseas travel plans and complications you also need to plan for the usual summer holiday season. It may be that you have allowed carry over of annual leave meaning that as the weather gets nicer you may get an influx of holiday requests or that employees are not using their leave and will have an unmanagable balance of holiday left at the end of the year.
Employees on furlough can request to take leave. Being on furlough means they should be able to return to work when you ask them and we know of a few cases where the employee has ‘made other plans’ or even been out of the country when they have been asked to return to work. Remind your furloughed staff that if they are planning on going away, even in the UK they need to take it as annual leave. As the employer you must ensure that you top up the furlough payment to 100% of their usual pay for any leave they take.
If you are worried that your employees aren’t taking any leave or that leave is building up you can request that employees book some annual leave, simply by sending an email asking that a certain amount of leave used by a certain time.
You can enforce when leave will be taken, it ‘s perfectly reasonable for you to tell an employee when you want them to take leave.
The important thing to remember with these last 2 options is that you MUST give twice as much notice as the amount of leave you want them take. Example: you want an employee to take a week of annual leave. You must give them at least 2 weeks’ notice before the start of the leave.