How to avoid being caught out by staff holidays abroad

9 May 2021, 5:00

School leaders will need to plan ahead to minimise the possible impact of staff heading for holidays overseas, writes Jenny Arrowsmith 

As half-term and the summer break approach, staff will likely be hoping to get away on holiday. If they choose to go abroad, they risk having to self-isolate afterwards.  

Until May 17, when the government provides an update on foreign travel, it remains unclear what restrictions will be in place in popular holiday destinations. Some foreign travel may be opened up before the Whitsun one-week half-term break and some school staff will decide to go away.   

School leaders must decide how they will deal with anyone who can’t return to work on time during quarantine restrictions and communicate this to staff as soon as possible.

The extent of restrictions for inbound passengers will depend on which country they are returning from. The ten-day managed quarantine, ten-day home quarantine, and stringent testing will apply to people differently depending on whether the destination visited is ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’. Only people travelling from ‘green’ destinations will avoid quarantine.    

The government has indicated that it won’t change travel corridors at very short notice but has also stated it “will not hesitate to act immediately should the data show that countries’ risk ratings have changed”. Holidaymakers could therefore find out part-way through their holiday that they will have to quarantine on return.

In schools, staff are generally not required to work over Whitsun or the summer school closure break and do not need to ask for permission to go on holiday, or to report where they are going  (abroad or otherwise). Additionally, you can’t normally dictate what your employees do in their own time or tell them where they can go on holiday.  

It would be reasonable to ask staff if they have booked a holiday abroad

However, given the position on foreign travel and quarantine risks, it would be reasonable for school leaders to ask staff to tell them if they have booked a holiday abroad or are likely to do so, and to remind them that they must be in a position to return to their workplace at the beginning of term.  

This will preclude staff from travelling abroad to any country not included on the green list over Whitsun and possibly also holidaying abroad near the end of the summer holidays.

If you are going to ask for this information, we recommend you do the following:

  • Explain why you need it and signpost where your staff can find up-to-date information about overseas travel.
  • Set out your expectations in a policy or write to employees so that they understand what might happen if they holiday abroad and are asked to self-quarantine during term or normal working time.
  • Explain how you expect them to notify you if they have travelled abroad or to report their absence and how it will be recorded on their records.
  • Be clear on whether they will be paid if they have to quarantine. 

Members of staff who have to quarantine will only be able to work if it is feasible for them to work from home or from their quarantine hotel. If they can work, you must pay them at their appropriate rates.

If they have not used up all their holiday leave, they could use it during quarantine. But, in the context of schools, this isn’t straightforward as most leave must be taken outside of term time. You are entitled to turn down requests for holidays if the timing doesn’t suit you.

In general, if a member of staff can’t work, you don’t have to pay them unless they are in fact ill. The Burgundy Book and the Green Book have provisions in place for pay when someone cannot attend the workplace due to infectious disease.  

However, our view is that this doesn’t apply where the individual is isolating because of the quarantine measures following a holiday abroad. A joint circular issued by the ASCL, LGA and NAHT unions last summer – when the same issue arose – acknowledged that teachers and support staff whose terms and conditions are covered by the burgundy or green books are not entitled to be paid if they self-quarantine in these circumstances.


Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.