With Spain back on the quarantine list, David Sheppard, an employment lawyer at Cardiff and London-based Capital Law, answers some key questions:
Can those under quarantine claim statutory sick pay (SSP)?
At the moment, no. The government has made clear that employees cannot claim SSP if they are self-isolating after entering or returning to the UK as part of quarantine, and for no other reason. As a result, we anticipate that many employees will report even a hint of COVID-19 symptoms displayed by themselves or a member of their household to access payments of SSP.
This will inevitably encourage false reporting of illness, or breaches of their quarantine, to enable a continuation of some form of income – as not all employees will be eligible to claim Universal Credit during this period. It is therefore hoped that urgent legislation is passed, to provide the same entitlement to SSP as to those self-isolating for medical reasons, and offer statutory protection from dismissal to anyone unable to work due to self-isolation, regardless of their length of service.
Could they take it as holiday?
Nothing specifically prevents some or all of the additional 14 days of quarantine from being taken as annual leave, but this will be specific to each employer and depends on the amount of leave an employee has left and planned for the rest of the year. On the basis that many holidaymakers will have taken 10 working days leave before returning to the UK, employers will likely be required to authorise 20 consecutive days holiday to allow for a further two-week quarantine – which wipes out the most employees’ annual holiday entitlement.
The best option is for holidaymakers currently facing the prospect of quarantine to discuss the matter with their employers to see what may be done, and in exceptional circumstances, employers may choose to permit extended periods of authorized, paid leave if working from home is not possible – but there is currently generally no legal obligation to do this.
Could those workers be furloughed?
The option of furlough leave will only be available to employees who had previously been furloughed for at least 3 weeks before June 30, 2020, and the Scheme is in place only until October 31, 2020. Their absence from work is a direct consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, and as SSP is currently not otherwise available during quarantine, it means furlough in these circumstances is arguably a legitimate use of the Scheme. However, employees have no right to insist on being furloughed, and employers may be deterred from accessing furlough as from August 1 they would have to pay the cost of employer’s national insurance on any furlough payments, and from September 1 start contributing further amounts towards any furlough payments to their workforce.