Staff holidays and quarantine requirements

This guidance is for school leaders for the management of staff annual leave in light of the requirement for returning travelers to the UK to quarantine for 14 days. As of  Monday 6 July 2020, the Foreign Office advice remains unchanged – people should not travel abroad other than for essential purposes. School staff should be reminded of this government advice.

Exemption rules

From Friday 10 July 2020 you will not have to self-isolate when you arrive in England, if you:

This applies to all travel to England, by train, ferry, coach, air or any other route.

If you have been to or stopped in a country that’s not on the travel corridors exemption list you will have to self-isolate until 14 days have passed since you left that country.

It is the employee’s responsibility to check details of these agreements as they are subject to change.

Any person entering or returning to the UK from abroad that is not covered by the exemption list is currently required to provide contact details and remain at the contact address provided for a period of 14 days from the date of entering the UK. Fines will be imposed for persons refusing to provide contact details or refusing to self-isolate.

Obviously, it is unclear whether these exemptions will remain in place all summer, but we have written this guidance on the assumption that they will do. We, therefore, recommend that schools also assume this is the case, and plan accordingly.  As and when things change, we will provide further guidance.

As you will know and by way of a reminder teachers’ terms and conditions are covered by the Burgundy Book, and school support staff are covered by the NJC Green Book.

School staff may have pre-booked travel plans in the school summer closure period, and there may be concerns over whether these plans can go ahead. We recognise that this has been a particularly difficult period for school staff, and it is understandable that they may wish to consider making travel plans for a chance to rest and recuperate over the summer closure period.

Our key recommendation in relation to this issue is that school leaders and managers have conversations with all their teaching and support staff as early as possible, about the potential impact of this governmental requirement on any travel plans.

Clearly the biggest concern in schools is likely to be if staff take holidays abroad requiring quarantine, which could impact on their ability to attend work at the start of the autumn term.

The view of the local authority is that from this point forward, school staff travelling abroad will be doing so fully cognisant of the quarantine requirements on re-entering the UK. Some countries may also require travellers to quarantine on arrival, which may impact their length of stay.  School staff should, therefore, be advised to check carefully whether this is the case before they make any bookings.

Whilst it has never been relevant for the majority of school leaders and managers to be aware of staff summer holiday plans, schools are now in a position where the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days on return may impact on the ability for school staff to return to work in school at the start of the autumn term. Managers should have open conversations with staff about the potential impact of this and how it can be best managed locally if staff are considering travelling outside the UK this summer.

Now that the requirement to quarantine for 14 days is known it is expected that no employee will book holidays that will impact on a return to work in September 2020. This should be made explicitly clear to all staff and that failure to adhere to this expectation may result in a period of unpaid leave or other action.

School leaders and managers should in the first instance, talk openly with the individual and consider whether working from home during the quarantine period is practical and feasible. For example, where an employee cannot do their normal work at home, the employer should consider whether it would be reasonable to redeploy them to alternative duties that they could carry out at home.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this issue. School leaders are encouraged to take full account of the need to maintain positive employment relations during these extraordinary times and to give more sympathetic consideration to certain circumstances which could include:

  • an employee who has extenuating circumstances, such as a family funeral abroad.
  • pre-booked holidays that cannot be cancelled without incurring significant financial cost (i.e. insurers will not reimburse cost) that were arranged before quarantine could have been envisaged
  • pre-booked holidays that the tour operator has not cancelled and has instead rescheduled on fixed dates which, if cancelled by the customer, would be at financial cost to them. 

The underlying expectation is that staff should not book holidays that have a potential impact on their ability to return to work at school as scheduled at the start of the Autumn term. Apart from exceptional circumstances as referenced above where staff are absent at the start of the autumn term due to the need to quarantine this will typically need to be managed as unauthorised absence, and therefore unpaid and schools may consider what other action is necessary if it is felt there has been a failure to follow a reasonable management instruction.