This advice comes in light of the UK Government moving Portugal from the green list, meaning employees will now be expected to quarantine when returning to the UK. 

The UK Government’s recent decision to move Portugal onto the amber list of countries to visit has left many employers and employees alike grappling with these sudden changes.

UK tourists will now be expected to avoid visiting the country and from the 8th June, returners will be required to quarantine for 10 days on arrival in the UK.

The Government have stated that this decision was made following increased concern about the spread of variants of coronavirus, including a mutation of the Delta variant.

However, employment lawyers have warned that employers need to instate clear policies which outline the company’s stance on quarantining. Suzanne Staunton, Employment Partner at JMW Solicitors says:

Employers should make it crystal clear to their employees that they must quarantine, no matter what the impact will be on the business.

Employees working from home can simply continue to work from home during their ten day quarantine. Those employers that usually require their employees to attend their place of work have a number of options regarding how to treat the quarantine period: they can ask their employees to take paid holiday; take another form of paid leave; or take that time off as unpaid leave.

Going forward, in light of what has happened with Portugal, employers may wish to have a policy which deals specifically with the way that quarantine time will be treated. In that policy, employers should stress that quarantine rules must be adhered to.

Additionally, employers may wish to draw a distinction between the way they treat quarantine time, in terms of pay, when an employee knowingly goes to an amber or red country, as compared to those who go to a green country, presuming that it will remain a green country (as will have happened with a number of employees in Portugal as at the time of the Government announcement yesterday).

Ms. Staunton further encouraged employers to have “an open and honest dialogue” with employees concerning the way that quarantine time will be treated and stated that individual circumstances must be taken into account in order to avoid discrimination claims.

This was also echoed by Andrew Crudge, Employment Associate at Trethowans, who emphasised the necessity of putting policy in place before further issues arise:

If an employer hasn’t planned for this scenario, the employment position with respect to an employee who has to quarantine on their return to the country will be unclear.

It is therefore vitally important for employers to have a plan in place to deal with this issue, and to communicate this to their staff. Employees could be permitted to work from home during a quarantine period.  But where they’re unable to do so (or if the employer doesn’t want to permit this) they could be allowed to take it as further holiday or as paid or unpaid leave.  Employers may wish to apply a different – perhaps less lenient – approach to staff who knowingly book a trip to an amber list country.

In any event, staff should be made aware of the company’s position in advance, which means explaining this to them now, before other countries are moved between lists and the issue escalates.

No new countries were added to the Government’s green list whilst seven were moved to the red list. It is expected that the list will be reviewed again in three weeks time to adjust for the updated circumstances, giving employers time to put policy into place.