Government should prioritise sick pay for returning employees

Employees that travel abroad to visit relatives and who have to quarantine on their return should be given statutory sick pay, said leading tax and advisory firm Blick Rothenberg. Genevieve Morris, a partner at the firm, said that: ‘As lockdown is eased many people will now think of travelling abroad to see relatives particularly those that may have been sick.

‘With the Government introducing the 14 days quarantine rules for all passengers arriving in the UK from 8th June by plane, train or ferry with some exceptions for seasonal workers, medical professionals, and lorry drivers, the question is how will employers treat employees needing to quarantine?’

Genevieve added that: ‘A holiday may be the last thing on many people’s mind at the moment, but the opportunity or necessity to travel overseas to visit sick or dying family members, as well as social visits by people who have been isolated from their overseas families for months are likely to start increasing as much of the world gets a grip on the COVID-19 crisis.

‘However, there have been no guidance on how employers are supposed to treat employees that need to quarantine if arriving back in the UK after 8th June. For many of the office workers, it may be a simple continuation of working from home, that most have done since mid-March, unlikely to impact on their productivity or pay, while still being a pain to accommodate especially if they can’t get an online shopping delivery.

‘But what about the people who can’t work from home and have to travel overseas or are now due back to the UK, having been needed to care for relatives or stay with family during the initial lockdown. Will employers treat the quarantine in the same way as people self-isolating with suspected COVID-19 and entitle them to claim statutory sick pay, which is unlikely to go far in any event.’

Genevieve noted that: ‘If so will the Government contribute towards the cost of the SSP, given it is their mandate which enforces these people to stay at home rather than return to work. Will employers expect the time to be taken as unpaid leave or people to use up valuable annual leave entitlement to cover the time off?

‘Employees currently furloughed would continue to benefit from their furlough pay, 80% paid for by the Government up to £2,500 a month, if they were caught in this situation but employees not furloughed would potentially be punished for working.

‘It would be morally wrong for employers to identify employees who need to travel abroad, and then quarantine for 14 days, and furlough those employees for the minimum three weeks, and claim support from the Government to pay 80% of their wages. But the inequality between furloughed and non-furloughed employees remains.’

Genevieve concluded that: ‘Whatever happens, the Government needs to clarify how employers are expected to treat these people during their 14 days of quarantine. Perhaps there will be a different treatment for people travelling for family reasons, and those travelling on holiday, but guidance is needed to ensure employees, and indeed employers, aren’t unfairly disadvantaged by a genuine need to travel.’


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