How should an employer deal with annual leave requests where the employee would be required to quarantine after travelling abroad?

Under coronavirus (COVID-19) control measures, people arriving in the UK from some countries will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. People who arrive from an exempt country will not be required to self-isolate (if they have not visited another country in the preceding 14 days) and some travellers are exempt, for example some international commuters. There are some differences to the rules on who must self-isolate in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

If an employee requests annual leave to travel abroad in circumstances that would require them to self-isolate on their return, the employer should consider whether or not this period of quarantine can be accommodated. If the employee would be working from home during the quarantine period, there is unlikely to be an issue as they can continue to work while self-isolating. If the employee cannot work from home, the employer could ask them to extend their annual leave request to cover the period of self-isolation, if they have enough annual leave available.

The employer would be entitled to refuse the employee's request for annual leave if it cannot accommodate the length of the employee's absence, or if the employee does not have sufficient annual leave to cover the whole period.

The employer should take into account the employee's reasons for travelling abroad, as there may be exceptional circumstances that require them to travel. The employer could agree to a period of paid or unpaid leave to cover the quarantine period, for example where the employee is dealing with a family emergency.