Q&A - Can boss refuse to pay me during COVID quarantine if overseas travel was family emergency?

Q:    I was furloughed in March. I am due to return to work after August bank holiday. The boss made us take our annual leave during the furlough period so he had all hands on deck when he re-opened. But I had to travel to Spain in July because my father, who lives there alone, had a heart attack. He is now recovering well and I plan to return home next week, but of course I can’t go back to work for 2 weeks because of COVID-19 quarantine. I asked the boss if I could carry my annual leave over as I hadn’t requested to take it during furlough, it was forced on me. He refused, saying he won’t pay me until I do go back. Can he do that?

A:    An employee is legally entitled to take time off work to help a dependent in an emergency. Dependents include spouses, partners, civil partners, children, parents, someone other than tenants, lodgers or employees living in their household or such as an elderly neighbour who relies on them for help or to make care arrangements.

Employers should be fair towards employees needing to travel abroad for a family emergency or death. During the COVID-19 crisis, if an employee has to do this and self-isolate on their return to the UK, they should be offered the opportunity to work from home. If this is not possible due to the nature of their work, a reasonable employer could consider unpaid leave or special paid leave during the isolation period.

Your boss was within his right to demand you take annual leave during the furlough period. However, because of how holiday pay works, if you were forced to take your annual leave then you would have been entitled to full pay during the leave time, as opposed to the 80% furlough pay covered by the Job Retention Scheme. So you may be owed some pay!

Article 17/08/2020

This question has been answered by Robert Williams a Partner with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  In accordance with government guidelines, some of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.

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Robert Williams

Robert Williams

Partner and Complaints Handler

Partner and Head of the Civil Litigation, Personal Injury and Dispute Resolution team in Wrexham