Holidaymakers forced to delay their return to work through government rule changes while overseas, or because they’ve been pinged, run the risk of losing hundreds or even thousands of pounds of earnings.
The stark warning comes from Kerry Hudson, Head of Employment at Coventry law firm Brindley Twist Tafft & James who said employees could be out of pocket if the rules change while they are abroad, for example going from green to red when they will then be required to self-isolate for 10 days.
“One of the questions we are asked regularly is whether people in this position are entitled to statutory sick pay,” said Kerry.
“But the answer is no!
“Your employers may be agreeable to you working from home, so for some people this might not cause a problem but if you’re a driver, a postman, or work in a factory, pub, shop or hotel then what can you do?”
The employers could choose to pay them SSP, but they don’t have to.
Kerry said although some companies might agree to employees working from home, others have been known to refuse this option so as to keep a level playing field with other employees who choose to stay at home rather than go abroad, and who travel into work every day.
She explained: “If they fall ill while on annual leave, that’s a different matter, but if it’s a case where the rule changes have an impact on their return to the UK and to work, then employers are fully within their right to insist they take it as paid holiday or – in the worst-case scenario – unpaid leave.”
Kerry said travelling to green list countries doesn’t negate any risk.
She continued: “There was a case recently in which someone travelled to a green list country. Once back in the UK they were contacted by track and trace – someone else on their flight tested positive for Covid and they were forced to self-isolate for 10 days.
“In this instance unless you are able to work from home and your employers agree to this, or are able to take it as extra annual leave, it may well be that you are left being paid no more than SSP.
“People should know that they could book a holiday abroad and do everything right – choose a seemingly safe country from the green list, take the PCR test and test negative, but if by misfortune you are on the same flight as someone who later tests negative, the outcome can be just as damaging.
“There are a lot of risks!
“If you are ‘pinged’, then the rules are different, and whilst the guidance is that you should self-isolate, it is not a criminal offence if you don’t, but you could then be putting others at risk. Some employers if they come to learn you have been pinged, and not taken regular tests to ensure you have not contracted Covid but still attended the workplace, may even consider this disciplinary action. There are however a list of exempt workers.
“If you have symptoms/test positive for Covid or if someone in your household has symptoms/tested positive, then you must self-isolate and you are likely to then be eligible for SSP, of your employers may have extra benefits they could offer.
“If you are contacted by track and trace and told to self-isolate, then again this is a legal requirement and you must stay at home.”