Firms could change their holiday policies and ask staff to disclose their travel plans because of the potential impact on the workplace of employees having to quarantine.
The current traffic light system means holidaymakers must quarantine on return from amber and red destinations, and take tests prior to and after travel to all destinations. Anyone who tests positive, even if returning from a green destination, must quarantine.
Speaking at a C&M Travel Recruitment’s Get Set For Travel webinar, Travlaw partner Ami Naru said it was “acceptable” for employers to alter their holiday policies in order to ask staff questions about their travel plans – as long as they explained the rationale for doing so.
She said: “The key point here is explaining to staff why it is you need to know. If staff are going to an amber or red destination they will probably have to isolate when they come back so then [the question is] can they work from home?
“Firms need to know where they [staff] are going; they don’t want them rocking up in the workplace when back [if they’ve been to an amber or red destination]. I think it’s acceptable to change your holiday policy to say this is why we need this in place.”
Naru urged companies to communicate their strategy on annual leave with staff, particularly what would happen if employees need to quarantine after a trip and cannot work, and whether they would be paid or have to take unpaid leave.
She added: “You need to be upfront so staff know the situation. Employers need to be clear as to the consequences of coming back if staff need to quarantine, particularly if they cannot work from home and need to take unpaid leave.”
HR and talent professional Claire Steiner said staff had to act responsibly. She said: “As an employee, you have a duty of care to make sure you are not creating issues.”
Steiner also urged companies to ensure staff were taking their owed time off, even if they were on furlough, to prevent the issue of too many employees wanting holidays at the same time when they return to work.
Meanwhile, travel firms were also told they could not make it mandatory for staff to take lateral flow tests before coming into the workplace, or for them to get vaccinated.
While tests are being encouraged by the government, they are “not a legal requirement”, said Naru.
She added: “The only way to put this in place [in the workplace] is via a policy and the only way to do that is consult with staff.”
Naru said employers could encourage staff to get vaccinated against Covid and highlight the benefits as firms have no legal right to insist on the vaccination.