Home | Staff | Employment rights if placed in quarantine after returning to UK

Employment rights if placed in quarantine after returning to UK

September 10th 2020

The government has issued guidance on employment rights for people who have to go into quarantine when returning to the UK from abroad.

By Joanne Stronach Director and Head of Employment & HR

Currently, people returning must self-isolate for 14 days unless they’re travelling from a country with a quarantine exemption. The list changes regularly so it’s best to check before travelling and before returning.

The guidance, issued by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, points out that a person’s employment rights will depend on their employment status and specific circumstances. A court or employment tribunal will make the final decision on employment status and whether an employer has acted within the law.

These are some of the main points covered in the guidance.

Working from home

Where possible people should work from home during their self-isolation period. Employees should talk to their employer about this before they travel.

Taking annual leave

Employees can agree with their employer to take leave to cover the period of their self-isolation, providing they have enough leave remaining.

Employers can also tell employees to take leave as long as they give them enough notice.

Travel because of family emergencies

Employees may be able to take unpaid leave if they’re forced to travel to deal with an emergency involving a family member or dependent.

If you’re out of the country when a quarantine is announced

Employees should talk to their employer as soon as possible to discuss options.


When dismissing staff, employers must do it fairly. Valid reasons include:

  • capability or conduct
  • redundancy

Even if employers have a fair reason, the dismissal is only fair if they also act reasonably during the dismissal and disciplinary process.

Dismissal should be a last resort and employers should consider alternative arrangements first, such as agreeing with employees to take annual leave or unpaid leave. Where possible, employers should explore the option for the employee to work from home.

Unfair dismissal

Employees can make a claim to an employment tribunal if they think they have been treated unfairly.

They must have worked for the same employer for two years to be eligible to claim unfair dismissal. A tribunal will consider all the relevant facts around a dismissal. These could include:

  • public health guidance on coronavirus
  • an individual’s behaviour
  • the employer’s circumstances
  • any previous history between the employer and the employee.

Employers who dismiss an employee because they have had to self-isolate following travel abroad may be liable for compensation in an unfair dismissal claim.

If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law please contact Joanne on 01228 516666 or click here to send her an email.

Share on Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email
We'll call you...