Spain quarantine: What you need to know

Alan Price – CEO at BrightHR

July 27 2020

The latest updates to the travel corridor exemption rules have left employers with yet another self-isolation headache.

At midnight on Sunday, Spain and its islands were removed from the government’s list of countries which do not require self-isolation upon return.

This means that anyone who arrives in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from 26 July from Spain and its islands will need to self-isolate for 14 days on their return. This move was taken following a significant change over the last week in the level and rate of increase in confirmed cases.

Current guidance is that those currently on holiday in Spain are encouraged to follow the local rules, return home as normal, and check the FCO’s travel advice pages for further information.

The rules on statutory sick pay

Employers now need to decide how to manage the additional two-weeks’ absence from work when staff return.

Firstly, your employees do not have the right to statutory sick pay (SSP) in this situation.

SSP only covers certain types of self-isolation, such as if one of your employees lives with someone who develops coronavirus symptoms.

If you do accidentally pay SSP to an employee who self-isolates on return from a non-exempt country, then you won’t be able to recover it from the SSP Rebate Scheme.

Managing employees’ return

If you currently have employees in Spain or its islands, then you should get in touch with them on their return to make sure they understand the need to self-isolate.

You should also agree with them how to cover their absence, bearing in mind SSP is not an option.

If your employee can work from home, this is likely to be the most favourable option. If this isn’t possible, you may consider:

  • Paying full pay
  • Paying the equivalent of SSP (this cannot be claimed back from the SSP Rebate Scheme)
  • Paying contractual sick pay
  • Agreeing on further annual leave
  • Enforcing annual leave by giving the required amount of notice (double the length of the holiday being enforced)
  • A period of unpaid leave
  • A period of furlough

What if my employees plan to travel to Spain?

Due to the FCO advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain, it may be that employees look to cancel any leave booked at short notice.

Others may still wish to go ahead with their travel. In this case, you should make plans with them before their departure on how you’ll handle the self-isolation period, again considering the options above.

You may wish to adopt the position that self-isolation on return from a holiday will need to be covered by annual leave. However, be mindful over whether any such rule could be indirectly discriminatory because of race, which includes nationality.

You also have the right to cancel leave that has already been authorised. You may choose to do this to prevent your employee from travelling abroad if you can’t accommodate the extra two-week absence.

While this is lawful providing you give the required amount of notice (the same length as the leave in question), doing so may harm employee relations, especially if the employee were to lose money as a result.

Get expert advice

Running a business during a pandemic isn’t easy.

So, when you’re worried about the best way to manage staff holiday, contact your Peninsula advice team.

We’re here 24/7 with expert advice on how to overcome your toughest workplace problems and keep your business and your people safe.

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