Ask the Experts

We have an employee who has travelled abroad to visit relatives, and he has asked for a further extension of time because he can’t come back yet.  We can’t keep his position open forever, what do we do?

Answer: If he’s stranded abroad because of Covid-19, it’s likely to be unfair (if he has 2 years’ service) if you discipline him for failing to return to work.  Assuming he’s on unpaid leave, the safest option would be to extend this.  If he can organise travel home in the next couple of weeks but just doesn’t want to return, you could say you can’t extend the leave and will treat any continued absence as unauthorised.  If he refuses to return, you could launch disciplinary action.  If he has to quarantine upon his return, and he can’t work from home, then this would be unpaid leave.

Can I make employees on furlough use their holiday leave?

Yes you can, on the condition that this is either in the contract, or you serve twice as much notice as the time you want them to take.  You must pay furloughed employees their normal rate of pay for a period of holiday, rather than any reduced amount you pay to employees during furlough.  It is better to put this into writing so all parties are clear.  Please contact us if you would like a letter as part of your retained service with us.