Can an employer stop an employee going abroad?
Can an employee demand their leave be cancelled because they can’t travel?
What happens if an employee gets stuck abroad – if they can’t work there do I have to pay them?
What do I do if one of my employees comes back from holiday with Covid19?

Now, more than ever, it’s vitally important to encourage your team to use their annual leave. The stresses of the past year have taken a huge toll on mental health so ensuring your staff have time to switch off from work, refresh and recharge can only benefit them and the business as whole.

Now, more than ever, it’s vitally important to encourage your team to use their annual leave. The stresses of the past year have taken a huge toll on mental health so ensuring your staff have time to switch off from work, refresh and recharge can only benefit them and the business as whole.

Here are some of the issues to consider:

Can I cancel an employee’s annual leave if I know they are going to an affected area?

In short, yes. Legally speaking, regulation 15 of the Working Time Regulations 1998
(SI 1998/1833) allows an employer to cancel annual leave that has already been authorised. The employer must give notice that is equivalent at least to the length of the leave – for example, if the employee has booked five days of holiday, the employer must give at least five days’ notice.

However, cancelling leave is unlikely to be a popular decision and could mean a financial loss to the employee so proceed with caution. Be prepared to explain your concerns around the risk not only to the individual but the knock-on effects to the business. Also ensure that you outline the latest government guidance if you believe the employee’s plans contravenes them.

Your employee may book travel for future dates in the hope that restrictions will relax in that time, but it should be noted that, at present, the advice is not to travel unless for legally permitted reasons – travel for leisure and holidays is currently illegal.

As a deterrent to travel, can I deduct pay from employees who insist on going to affected areas, on annual leave?

Deducting pay from an employee for this reason is likely to be deemed unlawful so I would advise against these sorts of penalties.

Firstly, it’s reasonable to expect the employee to find an alternative method of getting home. If, for whatever reason, they cannot travel back, there are several ways in which you can deal with this:

  • Use their annual leave to cover the absence. The length of their absence and their remaining entitlement to annual leave will dictate the extent to which you can do this. It’s better to try to agree this with the employee but if this is not possible, you might decide to enforce the leave. In this scenario, you need to give them notice that you require them to take twice the amount of leave that they originally intended. For example, a week’s leave will require two weeks’ notice. However, the uncertainty around the length of their absence may make this tricky. You can agree the following:
  • If the employee is able to work from where they are, if the nature of their job allows for this and they have the necessary equipment. The employee cannot insist that they work from their location if it is clearly not tenable.
  • The employee uses banked time off in lieu. Although it is unlikely that the employee would have enough lieu time to cover an extended absence.
  • A period of paid leave that is not annual leave.
  • A period of unpaid leave.
  • Any other type of leave permitted by the contract that may be appropriate.

One of my employees has recently come back from overseas and told me that they were informed that there was a suspected case of Coronavirus on their flight.
What should I do?

It is safest to follow the government’s self-isolation guidance in this scenario. A period of suspension (paid unless the contract says otherwise) is advisable.

Do I have to allow employees to cancel their booked period of annual leave if they cannot travel abroad as planned?

No, there is no requirement for you to do this. If you have specific rules on allowing employees to cancel their leave, you can stick to these.  However, in these circumstances, you may decide to use your discretion to be more flexible and allow cancellation.

This is a difficult time for employers and employees alike. Where possible, I would always advise trying to reach a compromise that suits all involved.

As an employee, they will want to save their leave for a better time to use it but as an employer, you don’t want employees storing up leave that is then difficult to grant later on!

If you would like more help and advice on the issues mentioned or any other aspect of HR, do get in touch at:
info@bphrconsultancy.co.uk
or 07855 374 511