HR Expert: New travel traffic light system
A client has an employee who wants to travel to a so-called ‘amber list’ country this summer. They would therefore like some advice on the Government’s new traffic light system and what their employee travelling to an ‘amber list’ country could mean for their business.  

England, Scotland, and Wales have announced that international travel is permitted as of 17 May 2021 under a traffic light system.

So far, there are only 12 countries on the green list and 43 countries on the red list with most countries on the amber list. If your client is getting a request from an employee who wishes to travel to an amber list country, they should be aware that to do so would not be considered illegal, however, their employee should be prepared to adhere to the rules that come with visiting these countries.

The rules associated with travelling to an amber list country include a pre-departure test and 2 PCR tests on day 2 and day 8 of a person’s return to the UK. Where your client is concerned, the employee who wishes to travel to an amber list country will, in addition to tests, need to quarantine for 10 days upon their return to the UK. In England, people returning from amber list countries can pay privately for a test under the “Test to Release” scheme on day 5 to end isolation early. This does not, however, apply in Scotland and Wales.

Your client will therefore need to consider if they will be able to accommodate the employee either being out of the workplace for weeks or months, depending on how long they wish to travel for, or working from home during their quarantine period if possible and if they aren’t already doing so.

Another important thing to note is that reviews of the lists will take place every 3 weeks in England. Scotland’s list of countries will be subject to review based on its specific needs and Wales’ list will be reviewed every 28 days, but changes may be more frequent if needed. With that in mind, your client should note that the country their employee wishes to travel to may be put on either the red list or green list whist they are still away, depending on coronavirus data.

This would mean that they may not need to self-isolate at all upon their return to the UK if the country they intend to visit is placed on the green list, or it could mean that they have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days which may make it difficult for them to ‘work from home’.

Overall, it would not be advisable for your client to tell their employee how to spend their annual leave but should consider how their employee’s quarantine period can be managed – either through homeworking, additional annual leave for the 5/10 days, or unpaid leave – keeping in mind that things could change whilst the employee is away. If any of these options is not a suitable way to manage their quarantine period, your client may wish to communicate this with the employee to see if another agreement can be reached.


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