How to Manage Employee Overseas Travel During Covid-19

As part of the Government’s plan to reduce the rise of Coronavirus infections across the UK, we have seen a number of counties placed on the quarantine list over the past few months, resulting in returning travellers from those destinations, being placed into self-isolation on their return. This has not only had a general impact on the wider population but also employee overseas travel having a knock-on effect for employers and their business operations.

In order to stay abreast of an ever-changing situation, the Government monitors travel corridors to overseas countries on a daily basis, however, The Foreign, Commonwealth and Developmental Office (FCDO) continues to advise against non-essential international travel. But what does this mean for employers who need to manage and mitigate against Employee Overseas Travel in a way they have never had to do before and who, through no fault of their own are caught up in this potentially contentious situation.

As we all know every employee has a right to use their annual leave as they wish. However, it would be sensible given the current climate for everyone to be mindful of the impact ‘forced isolation’ has on a business, including its staff, if an individual chooses to travel overseas, only to be forced into isolation on their return or during their holiday period.

Not only that, with new regulations announced by the Government which came into force on Monday 28th September 2020, employers are now required by law to prevent a worker from attending any location other than their place of isolation should they be symptomatic or test positive for the virus. Anyone found to be knowingly encouraging or allowing employers or agency staff to work, whilst showing symptoms or having tested positive could be fined anything from £1,000.

So how do employers mitigate against fines and ensure their employees are compliant with Employee Overseas travel Policy. Creating or revising an existing Overseas travel policy is a good place to start and communicating this to the team is a must. Our MAD-HR consultants have been assisting businesses to mitigate this situation by helping to create and shape their Employee Overseas Travel Policies. Some of the areas that should be looked at are:

  • What period of self-isolation is required so that it complies with Government guidelines and Law?
  • Should isolation periods be taken as unpaid leave or do the fall within an employee’s holiday allowance?
  • What happens when return travel is delayed due to quarantine measures being put in place or due to the employee becoming ill whilst abroad or on their return?
  • Are they a victim of circumstance or are they wilfully disregarding the rules?
  • Whether staff have the adequate travel insurance to cover any delays in returning or falling sick due to Covid-19 whilst abroad.

Providing guidance and resources to employees is also a good idea. Let them know that they should be referencing the FCDO or websites prior to travelling or even booking travel abroad.

Directors have a statutory duty to protect the business which includes the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees. In the Spirit of Making a Difference, we have prepared this Employee Overseas Travel – Memo to Staff for business owners to download and use.

This document is the first step in protecting your business and your staff.