Holidays Impacted by Covid-19

With the government regularly reviewing its covid-19 guidelines in relation to travel to and from the UK, what will you do if, for example, an employee’s holiday is cancelled before departure or they have to isolate in a hotel for 10 days on their return? 

Before the holiday season gets into full swing, now is a good time to put contingency plans together that enable you to maintain your business operations should a team member’s holiday be impacted by covid-19. It is also important to be up front with the team and clearly communicate any updates to your holiday policy, explaining how covid-19 travel related issues will be managed. The information below explains more.

Contingency Planning

With the UK holiday season getting underway, what will you do to minimise the impact on your business operations if an employee’s holiday is affected by covid-19 travel restrictions? 

To get your business ready, consider the following:

  • Identify which employees may be impacted by changes to UK travel guidelines (ie who has a holiday booked already or is thinking of taking a holiday in the coming months and where are they going?) 
  • If you think an employee may be unable to return to the workplace following a holiday, consider whether they could: 
    • Work from home, if possible?
    • Take additional holiday?Take unpaid leave?
    • Swap with someone who is on Furlough?
    • Work additional hours to make up for the extra time off work at a later date, if possible?
    • NOTE: Furlough is NOT an option when there is work available for the employee to do.
  • To cover their work, consider asking other employees to cancel forthcoming holidays? NOTE: You will need to give the same amount of notice as the amount of time being cancelled, plus 1 day eg 1 week and 1 day’s notice is required to cancel a holiday of 1 week, however, before doing this, consider the impact of asking someone to cancel a holiday eg will they lose money on a holiday they have already paid for?
  • If someone is only just putting their holiday request in now, decline their leave request if the time off could cause an operational issue? NOTE: Make sure you fully explain why their request has been declined and provide an alternative.
  • To avoid having a backlog of holidays still to be taken towards the end of the year, you can tell your team when to take holiday, giving at least twice the amount of notice to the amount of time you would like them to take off ie 2 weeks notice for 1 week’s holiday. Further details can be found at: Holiday entitlement: Booking time off

Holiday Policy Update

It is important that you are clear upfront to the team how different situations will be managed if their holiday arrangements are impacted by covid-19 and also how this may affect pay (where applicable). So, make sure you update your holiday policy and share it with staff:

  • Remind the team that going on holiday and taking the associated covid-19 travel risks is voluntary and their personal choice.
  • Explain that the company is under no obligation to pay anyone who is unable to return to work due to travel restrictions or quarantine after a holiday.
  • Share links to government web pages providing the latest travel advice:

Red list travel ban countries: Coronavirus (COVID-19): red list travel ban countries

Preparations for travel: Guidance: Travel advice: coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry restrictions for each country: Foreign travel advice

Requirements for returning to the UK: Entering the UK

Other things to consider / cover in your holiday policy and communication:

What if an employee’s holiday is cancelled by the travel operator due to changes in UK travel restrictions? – Do employees come into work or do you still want them to take the scheduled time off as holiday?

What if someone is told to self-isolate and can’t go on a pre-booked holiday – Can they work from home? Do you pay Statutory or Company Sick Pay? Do you want them to still take the time off as holiday?

What will you do if someone becomes stuck in a local lockdown abroad and can’t get back to the UK? – Do they take additional holiday and / or unpaid leave?

What if flights back to the UK are cancelled due to new UK travel restrictions while an employee is abroad? – Do they take additional holiday and / or unpaid leave?

What if an employee has to stay in a hotel after returning to the UK following a trip abroad? – Are you able to provide facilities to enable them to work from the hotel? Do they take additional holiday and / or unpaid leave? Are they paid Statutory or Company Sick Pay?

What if an employee has to self isolate at home immediately after returning from holiday? Do they work from home? Can they work from home? Do they take additional holiday and / or unpaid leave? Are they paid Statutory or Company Sick Pay?