HR headaches: the holiday season and quarantining

the holiday season and quarantining
By Anthony Wolny | 4th June 2021 | 4 min read

Summer is approaching, the temperature is rising, and Escape by Rupert Holmes (The Pina Colada Song) can be faintly heard from gardens across the UK as BBQs are lit.

This can only mean one thing: summer is almost here.

Alongside this time of year, the holiday season returns, and with travel restrictions beginning to lift, flocks of people will undoubtedly be packing their bags and getting away to sport their new flip flops by a hopefully socially distanced pool.

But what does this mean for employers and HR?

Following the implementation of the new traffic light system, employees travelling to certain predetermined countries will now be required to quarantine for ten days when they arrive back in the UK.

Quarantining not only poses a wide range of logistical challenges, but it will also require many businesses to rethink their holiday policies.

To help you manage the upcoming holidays season and the associated quarantining, we’ve looked at various factors that you need to consider.

Understanding the traffic light system

On 17th May 2021, the Government’s ‘Stay in the UK’ regulation was lifted, allowing international travel to restart under the new traffic light system.

For those unfamiliar with the traffic light system, in essence, it outlines what countries are safe (green), which will require quarantining upon return (amber), and those that are currently banned for travel (red).

What employers need to consider is the factors associated with an amber country as those who visit will be required to:

  • Fill in the passenger locator form
  • Provide a valid negative COVID-19 test
  • Quarantine at home for ten days
  • Take a COVID test on day two and day eight after arrival

After visiting an amber country, people will have the option to opt into a Test to Release at day five of their quarantine, hopefully speeding up the process. 

For more information on the traffic light system, click here.

Why does quarantining need to be considered?

For those businesses who have key workers that are required to be in the office, employees needing to quarantine can lead to:

  • Staff shortages
  • Unexpected and lengthy absences
  • Issues with annual leave entitlements
  • Difficulties ensuring a fair approach

So, what can you do to ensure minimal disruption while still allowing staff the freedom to travel as they wish?

The answer is to review and update your current holiday policies and processes.

Updating your holiday policies

From an HR perspective, your holiday policies must be in line with the current demands created by quarantining.

The follow-up actions during the quarantine period must be outlined beforehand for employees that knowingly go to a country in amber.

Policy changes could include agreeing for those ten days to be unpaid or using further annual leave to accommodate the quarantine.

By proactively making these updates, employees know if they go to an amber country, they’ve personally taken that liability.

What should you do if a country is recategorised?

Last summer, many locations were recategorised and deemed unsafe with very little notice, meaning that holidaymakers were often caught out, forced to quarantine, and unable to work.

So, if your employees have gone to a country categorised as green but it changes to amber while they are there, what should you do?

We recommend that you take a more lenient approach as the employee did not know that the country would become amber.

This may mean that you continue to pay those employees during their quarantine period.

Ultimately, the decision belongs to your business, although we highly recommend that you consider this possibility, plan your response, and implement it in your holiday policy as soon as possible.

Accommodating those who can work from home

You may have some key workers in your business, such as sales teams, that you’ve asked to work in the office but can technically work from home.

If those employees need to quarantine after visiting an amber country, special arrangements can be made beforehand for them to work from home over the ten days.

However, the point we wish to echo throughout this blog is to agree on these arrangements ahead of time.

[It’s worth noting that the considerations around quarantining only applies to key workers in the office as those already operating remotely can continue to work from home during the ten-day period.]

Streamlining the quarantining process

Now that we’ve established factors that you should consider when approaching the holiday season and the requirement to quarantine after visiting amber countries, let’s explore how you can optimise the process.

We advise that you look to digitise your holiday booking and absence management.

Requesting time-off verbally or via email is often prone to human error and offers no visibility to the wider business, but by using HR software, you can streamline the process for all involved.

Within some HR software, you can also edit the holiday booking section to include the employee’s destination, so you know if they’ll have to quarantine.

Additionally, these HR software can use automation to notify the employee inputting the holiday request that if they choose to go to the amber country, they’ll be required to quarantine and either use further annual leave or take the time unpaid.

How can IRIS help?

If you’re looking for customisable HR software that utilises workflows to automate processes such as holiday booking – look no further than IRIS Cascade HRi.

To find out how the software can be tailored to your ever-changing needs, book a demo here.