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Guidance on how to manage annual leave and quarantine due to Covid-19 travel restrictions

UPDATE: Friday 01/08/2020

Guidance on how to manage annual leave and quarantine due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. The situation is very fluid, and an employee may find themselves caught by quarantine unexpectedly, we hope you find this information useful.


Coronavirus regulations mean that employees must quarantine for 14 days if they arrive in the UK from a country outside the common travel area (CTA), from countries exempt due to agreed travel-corridors or British Overseas Territories.  However, countries on the exemption list may be subject to change due to the government reviewing the list considering new confirmed coronavirus cases in those countries.  Please review the up to date list at in addition to the Foreign Office advice for further information on specific countries

Employees must adhere to government’s requirements to quarantine. This includes situations where a country is removed from the exempt countries whilst in that country.

Employers should review the following options to determine what employees will receive if they must quarantine on their return from holidays in countries where a 14-day quarantine period will be required:

  • Paying full pay
  • Paying the equivalent rate of SSP (this cannot be claimed back from the SSP Rebate Scheme)
  • Paying contractual sick pay
  • Agreeing 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 (only available if previously furloughed)

Due to the FCO advising against all but essential travel to some countries, it may be that employees look to cancel leave they have booked.  This may be the case where countries were previously on the exemption list and this has been removed, e.g. Spain, Luxembourg, and therefore will require them to self-isolate on return.

Others may still wish to go ahead with travel in which case discussions should take place before departure about how the quarantine period will be dealt with, again considering the options above. Organisations may wish to adopt the position that quarantine on return from a holiday will need to be covered by annual leave but must consider whether any such rule could be indirectly discriminatory because of race, which includes nationality.

Organisations are permitted to cancel leave that has already been authorised and some may choose to do this to prevent the employee from travelling abroad if it is thought that the extra absence cannot be accommodated. Whilst this is lawful providing that the employer gives 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.

As always, if you have any questions regarding this information or anything else please contact us.