COVID-19: Employer Advice on Business & Personal Travel

Peninsula Team

October 06 2020

The travel industry is among the sectors worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the initial months following the outbreak saw widespread cancellation of vacations, business travel, too, has drastically reduced. Most companies have been forced to move business conferences, events and shows to the virtual space.

If the nature of your work requires that your staff undertake essential business trips even during a pandemic, it is important that you update your travel policies accordingly.

What things should I keep in mind before planning a business trip?

The first step is to conduct a risk assessment to find out if it is safe for your employees to travel. Avoid travelling to places experiencing a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases. Consider other possible remote options in place of the trip that may help realize the purpose of the trip. Only permit business travel that is critical.

If it is safe to travel, examine the travel restrictions and advisories (such as quarantine requirement, etc.) issued in the city/region your employees would be visiting during the trip. Plan the duration of the trip and the itinerary accordingly.

Consider an employee’s individual circumstances before asking them to undertake a work trip in the current crisis. Do not ask employees to travel if:

  • The employee has pre-existing medical conditions, which may put them at risk of developing complications if they contract COVID-19.
  • The employee lives with at-risk family members, or has dependents to care for, and would not be able to safely self-isolate when they return from the trip
  • If the employee is uncomfortable travelling for business during the pandemic

Make sure your staff is aware of Public Health guidelines and knows how to stay safe while travelling.

Can I restrict an employee’s personal travel during COVID-19?

No. Employers cannot control how employees wish to spend their time off. To ensure health and safety in the workplace, you may, however, ask your staff to quarantine for the recommended time period after they return from their vacation.

Do I have to pay employees during quarantine?

No. Employers do not have to pay employees while they are in quarantine. If a worker is at home due to a COVID-19 related reason, then they would be availing the unpaid and job-protected COVID-19 leave. The name of this leave and requirements vary by jurisdiction and employers should check for the latest updates on this in their province. 

You may provide pay if you wish to as an additional benefit. Or if the employee is self-isolating only as a precaution post-travel and is working from home during the quarantine. But you are not required to do so by law. If your employees are entitled to a paid sick leave, you may allow them to use it as an alternative while they are self-isolating.

What updates should I make to my company’s travel policy during the pandemic?

It is best that you update your travel policy for the duration of the pandemic and notify your staff of the changes. Ask your employees to inform the company of their travel plans that will require self-isolation upon return.

Emphasize that it is a collective responsibility to keep your workplace COVID-free.

Make sure your policy is the same for all staff members to avoid any potential discrimination claims. Also, provide clarity on the disciplinary action that may be taken against employees who do not follow health and safety guidelines at work.

Need help updating your travel policy for the pandemic?

At Peninsula, we provide HR expertise so that employers can focus on growing their business. For HR and health and safety advice during the COVID-19 crisis, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652

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