Self-isolating after returning to the UK: your employment rights

Guidance for workers and employers on self-isolating after returning to the UK.

This guidance was withdrawn on

This page has been withdrawn because it’s no longer current. Read more about living safely with coronavirus (COVID-19).

Applies to England

People returning to the UK must self-isolate for 14 days unless they’re travelling from a country with a quarantine exemption.

A person’s employment rights will depend on their employment status and specific circumstances. A court or employment tribunal will make the final decision on employment status and whether an employer has acted within the law or not.

Working from home

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

Taking annual leave

Workers 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 staff to take leave as long as they give them enough notice. Find out about notice periods.

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 certain family members or dependants.

Check if you can take time off for family and dependants.

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

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


When dismissing staff, employers must do it fairly. Valid reasons include:

Even if employers have a valid reason, the dismissal is only fair if:

  • it’s a reasonable response in the circumstances
  • they follow a fair procedure during the dismissal and disciplinary process

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 their dismissal was unfair.

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

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

Find out more about making a claim to a tribunal.

Published 14 August 2020