Family emergencies abroad may require a month off work

Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire/PA Images

An employment lawyer has warned that staff who have travelled abroad to handle a family emergency may need to take a month off work because of quarantine rules affecting travellers.

The requirement for people arriving in the UK from abroad to self-isolate for two weeks took affect from Monday, and similar restrictions exist in Spain, Germany, Greece and France, among many other countries.

This could mean employees might need to take at least 28 days off work if they need to travel abroad for a family emergency, because they could need to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival in another country; take a few days to handle the emergency; and then self-isolate for another two weeks when they return to the UK.

Kate Boguslawska, a partner at Carter Lemon Camerons, said: “If the reason for an employee’s essential travel is a family crisis, then it should be dealt with in line with employment law, which gives the employee the right to a reasonable amount of time off to deal with emergencies.

“Normally, two additional weeks away from the workplace would exceed the threshold of what is considered reasonable. However, because these additional weeks of quarantine are legal requirements and unavoidable, this extends the amount of time that it is reasonable to be away from the workplace.”

Although the law does not specify what is considered a “reasonable” time to deal with an emergency, a number of tribunal cases have decided that a day or two to deal with an emergency may normally be sufficient, said Boguslawska.

“With many other countries having introduced similar quarantine requirements, this could add up to an employee reasonably needing four weeks or more away from the office, in addition to the time needed to deal with the family emergency,” she said.

“Employers will now have to be prepared to allow this time off work, as it is the employee’s statutory right to take it.”

There is no statutory right to paid compassionate leave, although some employees might have a contractual entitlement to paid leave for family emergencies, she added.

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