Self-isolating after returning to the UK: employment rights

Employers who dismiss an employee because they have had to self-isolate following travel abroad may be liable for unfair dismissal

HM Government have issued guidance for employees and employers in relation to the impact of quarantine when returning from holidays or other overseas travel when quarantine has been imposed.

They advise the following:

Working from home

Where possible people should work from home during their self-isolation period. Employees should talk to their employer about working from home before they travel.

Taking annual leave

Employees can agree with their employer to take leave to cover the period of their self-isolation, providing they have enough leave remaining.

Employers can also tell employees to take leave as long as they give them enough notice.

Travel because of family emergencies

Employees may be able to take unpaid leave if they’re forced to travel to deal with an emergency involving a family member or dependent.

If you’re out of the country when a quarantine is announced

Employees should talk to their employer as soon as possible to discuss options.


Dismissal should be a last resort and employers should consider alternative arrangements first, such as agreeing with employees to take annual leave or unpaid leave. Where possible, employers should explore the option for the employee to work from home or to agree work that can be completed from home.

Unfair dismissal

Employees can make a claim to an employment tribunal if they think they have been treated unfairly.

They must have worked for the same employer for 2 years to be eligible to claim unfair dismissal.

A tribunal will consider all the relevant facts around a dismissal. This could include:

  • public health guidance on coronavirus
  • an individual’s behaviour
  • the employer’s circumstances
  • any previous history between the employer and the employee

PAYadvice.UK 19/8/2020

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