COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – Employer FAQs

The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) across the globe remains a significant concern in the workplace. Employers are confronting difficult questions regarding how to handle safety and health rules, travel restrictions, leave and accommodation, immigration, and other employment issues. The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are designed to address some of the more common questions that employers currently face. Employers are also encouraged to consult relevant FAQs put forth by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Kingdom's government websites.

As this is a fluid and rapidly changing situation, please keep in mind that different or additional facts may warrant re-assessment of policies and practices so they can serve the best interest of employees, employers and the community at large.


  1. Should an employer restrict travel to all "affected areas" where there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections, as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO)?

    Employers with UK-based employees should follow the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) country advice guidance for the specific destination, and generally follow the Government advice to employers.

    Employers should not send employees to areas the UK Government has classified as "Category 1."

    Employees who have travelled to Category 1 areas are required to self-isolate on their return. Employees who travel to Category 2 areas are not required to self-isolate if they are asymptomatic.

  2. What should an employer do if an employee shares that they plan to travel to an affected area?

    Employers cannot restrict an employee's personal travel. The Government guidance for returning travellers above should, however, be followed for Category 1 and Category 2 areas. An employer must ensure that returning travellers from Category 1 areas do not return to the workplace for the requisite quarantine period, and may wish to do an individualized risk assessment and determine whether to have employees who have travelled to a Category 2 area stay home or work from home for the current recommended time period.

  3. How should an employer handle employees who have family members who have traveled to affected areas?

    Employees who have had a family member travel to an area classified as Category 1 should contact the NHS 111 online coronavirus service for instructions before coming into work. For employees with family members who have travelled to a category 2 country, an employer may wish to do an individualized risk assessment and determine whether to have the employee stay home or work from home.

    Public Health England health protection teams (HPT) can advise about measures to take if an employee who may have been exposed to a confirmed case has come into the workplace.

  4. Can we prevent employees from traveling to affected areas for personal reasons?

    Probably not in most cases, but an employer can institute a requirement that employees disclose their plans to travel to Category 1 and Category 2 countries so that they can take steps to ensure health and safety in the workplace.

    An employer might be able to refuse or revoke holiday in some circumstances, such as where quarantine upon return would be mandatory or recommended, and the employee's extended absence would create a business hardship.

    Note that Government guidance is subject to change at any time, and employers must stay informed about and prepared for any change in advice. For example, whilst the focus is now on returning travellers, as the coronavirus spreads in the UK and community transmission increases, people may be asked to self-isolate for seven days of "even minor" signs of respiratory tract infections or a fever. The BBC is providing live updates on Government announcements (click here).


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