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Employees want to travel to Coronavirus affected area on holiday - can I ask them not to?

Hello

A manager has mentioned that two of their team members have a booked holiday to one of the badly hit areas of coronavirus. We are leisure facility that cater for all ages and abilities. The two employees jobs are such that they can not work remotely. 

some members of staff are aware of the employees holiday and are already apprehensive that they may come back with the virus. Any advice on how to handle this will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks. 

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  • There is no reason why you should not tell them it is a bad idea and that if they go then they will face the consequence of their actions.
  • No you can’t tell them not to.

    You can point out risks and refer to any government guidance.

    On their return they may or may not need to go into isolation depending on where they are going and what the advice is at the time. This may impact their decision depending on your levels of sick pay.
  • Thanks Peter and Keith.

    To put things in a bit of perspective. We have several people visiting our facility for one form of sporting activity or the other. Some of these people are children, those recovering from medical conditions that have been advised to try out some form of fitness activity, etc.

    We also offer enhanced sick pay for staff after probation. The staff have been with us for a while, so if they come and have to be isolated/sick with the virus, they know they can claim this.

    I had advised the manager to remind them of the risk they are exposing themselves to by going for the holiday and the potential impact for other employees and our customers. But what I would like to know is if the enhanced sick pay can be withdrawn, if they go into quarantine/get the virus - as it is a premeditated decision on their part to go to a high risk area.
  • In reply to Lola:

    If they HAVE to self-isolate as advised by 111/GP then sick pay should be paid even if its voluntary travel. If enhanced sick pay is contractual then I'd say it does need to be paid.

    It must be difficult for employees - they can't claim the £ back from their travel insurance if their holiday isn't cancelled, and the public is being told to check advice etc. before travelling, so if there are no restrictions then I can understand (only slightly) why they would still go. But there there's the responsibility to other employees...

    Its an unusual situation, but to look at it in basic terms, if you'd pay someone sick pay if they broke their leg playing football - a voluntary activity - then I'd think the same applies here. I think employers need to bite the bullet and take one for the sake of the rest of their workforce.

    Could there be any working from home provisions? We have some employees here who do need to be in the office for their particular role, but they could carry out some non-urgent admin tasks and work for other teams, so we'd swap duties around temporarily.
  • In reply to Lola:

    Hi Lola, we've made the decision that if an employee chooses to travel to one of these areas then they will not be paid company sick pay when/if they have to self-isolate as a result of their holiday.

    Our Company Sick Pay clearly states that is paid at the discretion of the company any way and it is not contractual.

    Given that it is not only employers with H&S responsibility it is the employees as well to ensure their own H&S and not to put themselves or colleagues at risk, then we have reached the decision that this is a fair approach.

    We've encouraged staff to speak to their manager before any travel and to monitor the situation closely.
  • In reply to Gemma:

    If I knew you werent going to pay me to self isolate I would (a) either attend work (potentially) or (b) self certificate for some other reason to get sick pay (especially as potentially to self-certificate maybe increased to two weeks.

    Unfortunately this ones potentially a game changer in our flexibility and approach to things.
  • In reply to Keith:

    I've just advised my Director the same thing - while it might seem daft to us to still travel to an affected area, if travel advice doesn't outright state they can't go, then I'm not sure its fair to take the stance that its their own fault if they have to self-isolate and therefore lose out on sick pay, especially as you say Keith, they will probably just come in to work or use another excuse and get a fit note for "work related stress [of not getting paid for following official advice, before and after their holiday]"

    Plus, I'm thinking of the impact in general if Bill has to come in to work because he couldn't afford to self-isolate and does actually have it and spreads it around.....
  • In reply to Gemma:

    When you say people who choose to travel to one of those areas, i assume you mean the specific areas that the Government are advising against travel to (e.g. the specific towns in Italy) and not the general area, where the government has not advised against travel to (e.g. Northern Italy?) I can understand penalising people who have gone to places that the FCO have advised them not to, it seems very unfair to penalise people for going to places where there is no FCO advice against going.

    I agree with Keith - all that will do is ensure that they turn up to work
  • It is none of your business where someone chooses to go on holiday and you shouldn't penalise them for that decision.

    If they are trying to go to a restricted area (e.g. specific towns in Northern Italy - not in the main tourist areas), it's unlikely their holiday will be able to go ahead anyway.

    If they have a holiday booked to an area with no travel restrictions in place (maybe somewhere else in Italy?), then they probably can't claim cancellation back from their travel insurance. If they have been saving up for a while, why on earth wouldn't they go?

    I also think you may as well assume no where is safe by now. For example, if they were going on a cruise in a non-affected area would you tell them not to go in case the ship got isolated? Probably not, but the risk is still probably higher than staying home.

    I would be talking to your colleagues and trying to allay their panic. The stigma around the virus is really damaging and getting a bit ridiculous!

    I think most medical professionals would sign someone off if upon their return from holiday the advice had changed for the area they are going to and they should now be self-isolating, but they've been told by their employer they need a fit note. Especially if the rules around SSP are going to change anyway.
  • In reply to Lesley:

    I agree with Lesley: "I would be talking to your colleagues and trying to allay their panic. The stigma around the virus is really damaging and getting a bit ridiculous!"

    People will either get this or they won't: the UK government is estimating that 1 in 5 people will get it in due course. We need to be considerate employers, to both employees going to affected areas and to their colleagues who haven't.

    Will there be some employees who 'swing the lead'? Almost definitely - and let's face it you can probably name them already. But as others have said the greater risk is that people deny they were in an affected area and come in if you don't pay them for self-isolating.
  • In reply to Teresa:

    Yes, we're looking at the specific risk areas (Category 1) where there is clear advice against all but essential travel to by the FCO. We're not going to penalise someone for going to somewhere where there is no advice against travel. Most of our employees have taken the approach well and understand the reasoning behind it.

    I agree, that everywhere is potentially risky at the moment, but this is just our initial action which was decided on last week and we're keeping it under review along with other contingency plans. As the situation changes then we will adapt our approach to things. At the moment, it's only the Category 1 areas we're clearly being told to avoid if that list suddenly grows overnight then we will probably have a rethink.

    At the moment we're asking staff to speak to us before travel so that we can monitor the situation in general so that if things develop whilst they are on holiday we can plan for the fact that there may be a risk they will be off for an extended period of time. And again staff understand the reasoning for this.

    For example if an employee goes away and there's suddenly an outbreak where they are, we can be aware that they may need to self isolate or may end up stuck there for longer than planned such as the cases of those stuck on cruise ships or the hotel in Tenerife recently. We're aware that we're not going to be the first people they think of calling if they end up stuck somewhere - this way we can be aware of it and plan before they are able to get in touch with us.

    We have one employee in Thailand at the moment, which currently does not have any advice against travel however we're contacting the employee to ask him to remain home for 14 days as a precautionary measure and he will receive full pay for this. Staff know he is there and are concerned even though there is no advice against travel - so we're seeking to reassure them and also minimize any risk that he may have unknowingly come into contact with the virus.

    We're not going to be telling anyone where they should go, but we will advise if the area has FCO advice to avoid travel to it and encourage them to speak to their travel provider.