New guidance issued on employment rights and self-isolation after returning to the UK
On 14 August 2020, the government issued new guidance (available here) for employers and employees on self-isolating after returning to the UK.
The guidance is relatively short and self-explanatory. Some of the key issues to be aware of include:
1. Employees should work from home during their self-isolation period where possible;
2. Employees can take holiday to cover the period if they have enough holiday left;
3. Unpaid leave should be considered if employees are forced to travel to deal with a family emergency; and
4. If quarantine is announced whilst an employee is out of the country, employees should talk to their employer as soon as possible to discuss the available options.
The guidance also highlights and summarises the law relating to unfair dismissal, stressing that a dismissal will only be fair if it is carried out for a fair reason (capability or conduct and redundancy are specifically mentioned) and if the employer followed a fair procedure when dismissing. Perhaps in recognition of the fact that dismissals may now start to rise as a result of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme winding down, the guidance states that dismissals should be a “last resort” and that alternative arrangements (such as taking holiday or a period of unpaid leave) should be considered first.
The guidance states that “employers who dismiss an employee because they have had to self-isolate following travel abroad may be liable for unfair dismissal” and summarises the factors that Employment Tribunals will consider when looking at the facts surrounding a dismissal. These include:
– Public health guidance on coronavirus
– An individual’s behaviour
– The employer’s circumstances
– The previous history between the parties
The points set out in the guidance are not new, but they are perhaps a reflection of the practical and difficult issues that employers are faced with right now. An early and thorough risk assessment will be key for any employers looking to make dismissals in the coming weeks.
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