UK Citizens returning to the UK from Spain are now told that they must self isolate for 2 weeks.

With the change in rules, some employers are asking what their obligations are to employees who cannot return after holiday until two weeks self isolation has expired.

The employer has flexibility in this regard and is free to deal with the situation as it sees fit within reason. There is nothing to stop an employer requiring an employee to work from home, if this is possible. Where an employee cannot work from home, there is no current entitlement to SSP for such people, and unless the government change this situation (and they have in the past) then no sick pay is applicable under most contracts of employment.

A purist answer to the question of employee’s rights during such self isolation is “None at all”. The employer does not have to pay normal wages, and does not have to pay sick pay.

It is within the employer’s gift to allow an employee to take further leave if they need to avoid a period without pay, or an employer is free to pay normal wages or SSP IF THEY CHOOSE. There is nothing to compel such generosity however. If SSP is to be paid, the employee should be required to provide a self-isolation note obtained through the NHS 111 website.

The question has been asked as to whether an employer can compel an employee to attend work when they return from Spain and are ordered to self-isolate. The sensible answer to this is No.  An employer should not, under any conceivable circumstances, attempt to force an employee into work. Putting aside the health risks just for a moment, (and it could be argued that this is reason enough), if an employer were to discipline an employee, or even dismiss an employee for failing to attend work when they are self isolating, then the damages available to the employee would be considerable, even where the employee does not have two years’ service.

The damages may be as a result of the employee suffering a detriment for raising health and safety concerns, or asserting a statutory right, or even whistleblowing in some circumstances.

In short, the employer has huge latitude to deal with staff in quarantine post travel as they see fit, but this must stop short of disciplinary processes.

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