Employees returning from Spain? Here’s what you can do

Kevin Bennett

August 07 2020

At midnight on July 26th, Spain and its islands were removed from the government’s list of countries that don't require self-isolation upon return.

That means that anyone now arriving in the UK from Spain and its islands will need to self-isolate for 14 days on their return. This move was taken following a significant change in the rate of increase in confirmed cases.

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

Statutory sick pay rules

How to manage the additional two-weeks’ absence from work is something employers now have to handle when employees return.

It’s important to remember that your employees don’t have the right to statutory sick pay (SSP) in this situation. SSP only covers certain types of self-isolation, e.g. one of your employees lives with someone who develops coronavirus symptoms.

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

Managing an employee’s return

It may be the case that you currently have employees in Spain or its islands. If so, you should contact them when they return to ensure they understand the need to self-isolate.

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

If the employee in question can work from home, this is likely to be the most favourable option. If it isn’t an option, you could 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 an employee plans to travel to Spain?

Due to the FCO advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain, employees may want to cancel booked leave at short notice. Others may still wish to go ahead with their trip. In this case, agree their self-isolation period with them before they depart.

You may want to agree that self-isolation upon their return 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 you’ve already 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.

Need our help?

For further complimentary advice on annual leave from an expert, call us any time day or night on 0800 917 0771 or request a callback here.

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