The general position on quarantining and other measures necessary prior to travel:
As from 17 May 2021 there is a new traffic light system in place, based on a system set out by the Global Travel Taskforce where there are different levels of restrictions applied to individuals returning to the UK from countries dependent upon whether these counties are on a green, amber or red list. People should not travel to ‘red’ countries for leisure. The lists will be reviewed every 3 weeks and there will also be a green watchlist to provide an indication when a country is at risk of being moved to a different colour in the traffic light list. There is a separate list of red, amber and green countries prepared by the Welsh Government, but it is anticipated that all of the devolved administrations will have the same countries on their lists.
There is a ‘red list’ of countries from which travel to the UK is banned. Only British and Irish Nationals, or third country nationals with residence rights in the UK will be able to enter the UK if they have been in or travelled through any of the countries on the travel ban list in the previous 10 days. They must quarantine in a government-approved facility (unless exempt) for 10 days on arrival. They cannot use the Test to Release scheme. For more information on this please see Booking and staying in a quarantine hotel when you arrive in England and Border rules for people travelling to and from Wales: coronavirus (COVID-19).
For people arriving from an ‘amber list’ country, they will need to quarantine (at home) for a period of up to 10 full days, unless they are on a shortlist of exemptions. They will also need to book and pay for in advance, a PCR test with a private provider to be taken on or before day 2 and on or before day 8 after their arrival. From 19 July 2021 people who have been fully vaccinated with an NHS administered vaccine will not have to quarantine upon their return to England. They will still need to complete a passenger locator form and have a PCR test on or before day 2 after their arrival in England, but they will not need to take a day 8 PCR test. Amber arrivals will be required to demonstrate their full vaccination status to carriers before departing, either via the NHS app or via an NHS COVID Pass letter which can be obtained by calling 119 for travelling overseas.
People arriving in the UK from a country or territory on the green list will still need to complete a passenger locator form and take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours before they travel, but they will not have to quarantine upon arrival. They will, however, need to book and pay for in advance, a PCR test with a private provider to be taken on or before day 2, there will be no need for the additional test on day 8. If the person develops symptoms or is contacted by NHS Test and Trace, they must self-isolate as per the usual instructions.
All quarantine periods for international arrivals start from the day the traveller arrives in the UK and lasts for the next 10 full consecutive days after the day they arrived. However, from 15 December 2020 the 10-day period may be reduced for passengers arriving into England who comply with the ‘Test to Release’ strategy. Please see further on within this section for more details.
All international arrivals are required to supply their contact and accommodation information by completing a passenger locator form before their arrival to any nation in the UK and this must be presented on arrival to the UK, unless they have an exemption. Anybody refusing to supply these details may be fined (and in England could also be imprisoned for up to 10 years), and non-British nationals may not be allowed into the UK. Where international travellers who are required to quarantine are unable to demonstrate where they would quarantine, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the Government. Anybody refusing to comply with the quarantine requirements may be fined.
All journeys within the Common Travel Area will also be exempt from these measures. The measures and list of exemptions will be kept under regular review. It is possible to sign up for email alerts concerning any changes to the country lists or conditions attached to them applicable in England here.
The government is now carrying out public health self-isolation compliance checks on individuals who have a legal duty to self-isolate for 10 days following international travel. More information on what to expect from a compliance check is available online.
Coronavirus: testing for people travelling to England and Wales
From 4am 18 January 2021, passengers (including British citizens) arriving by boat, plane or train from all international destinations are required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before departing for England or Wales. The test must have been taken up to 72 hours prior to departure. Passengers will be subject to an immediate fine of £500 if they fail to comply with the new requirement. Passengers arriving from countries on the government’s ‘red list’ or ‘amber list’ and who are not double vaccinated with an NHS administered vaccine must quarantine for 10 days regardless of their pre-departure test result to provide further protection from those travelling from high-risk countries.
Passengers will need to find their own test provider and ensure it meets the required standard.
Test results must be in English, French or Spanish – translations will not be accepted and they can be in a printed document or as an email or text message.
More detail is available online for those travelling to England and for those travelling to Wales about what counts as a suitable test, where a passenger may be able to find information on where they can source a test and what data needs to be included with the test results.
Travel Corridors/Traffic Light System
All travel corridors have been suspended from 4am 18 January 2021 until further notice. All international arrivals will still need to complete a passenger locator form and to quarantine for 10 days, unless they are exempt or they take part in the Test to Release scheme (only applicable in England).
As from 17 May 2021 there is a new traffic light system in place, based on a system set out by the Global Travel Taskforce where there are different levels of restrictions applied to individuals returning to the UK from countries dependent upon whether these countries are on a green, amber or red list. People should not travel to ‘red’ countries for leisure. The lists will be reviewed every 3 weeks and there will also be a green watchlist to provide an indication when a country is at risk of being moved to a different country in the traffic light list. There is a separate list of red, amber and green countries prepared by the Welsh Government, but it is anticipated that all of the devolved administrations will have the same countries on their lists.
Coronavirus tests whilst quarantining
As from 15 February 2021, any person arriving from outside the Common Travel Area must take a COVID-19 test on day 2 and 8 of their 10-day quarantine (only day 2 test needed for those arriving from a ‘green list’ or an ‘amber list’ country and who are fully vaccinated with an NHS administered vaccine). The tests must be booked and paid for prior to travel. The travel test package booking reference number will be needed for the passenger locator form. A negative test on either day 2 or 8 will not bring the quarantine period to an early end, the 10 full days must be completed. If either test shows a positive result, the period of quarantine must continue for a further 10 days from the day the test was taken. Failure to take the tests may result in a penalty of up to £2,000. For people coming to England, there are a number of private providers offering the day 2 and 8 testing package, with different costs for the package. The government does not endorse or recommend any test provider. Individuals should conduct their own research about available providers, the tests they supply and their terms and conditions of sale. More details on providers of day 2 and 8 tests in England are available here and more details on how to quarantine in England are also available online.
For people arriving into Wales, information on the rules upon arrival is available here and the day 2 and 8 package tests can be booked via an online portal.
The testing requirements apply to all arrivals, including those with jobs that qualify for other travel exemptions, unless there is a specific exemption granted for testing to that particular job. Please always check the latest information on such jobs and their exemptions. Currently one exemption listed is for seasonal workers in edible horticulture, however, you should check the list routinely for the full details and any changes. This exemption is only in place up to and including 5 April 2021 and is an important point for members to bear in mind in relation to their migrant workforces. New bespoke testing arrangements take effect from 6 April 2021 where seasonal workers in edible horticulture will need to take a mandatory workplace, community or home lateral flow device (LFD) test on or before days 2, 5 and 8 after their arrival.
In these cases, employers have a duty to take reasonable steps to facilitate employees taking COVID-19 tests, please see ‘What duty is there on employers to facilitate the testing of employees?’ for more information on this.
If a person chooses to take part in the Test to Release Scheme (in England only) and is then eligible to end their self-isolation early, they must still have a COVID-19 test on day 8. If this has a positive result, they will need to self-isolate for 10 full days from when they took the test.
There is no statutory obligation on an employer to pay for any of these tests for any of their workers, whether they be foreign seasonal workers or existing members of staff returning home. In some cases, an employer may choose to pay for or make a contribution towards such costs, and where you are considering anything like this, it is important that you speak to one of our Employment Advisers at the Helpline for more information before you take any further action.
Test to Release
Passengers arriving into England from countries featured on the government’s ‘amber list’ may be able to reduce mandatory quarantine, if they take an optional coronavirus (COVID-19) test at least five days after they have arrived in England. Quarantine will need to continue until the test results are obtained. If the test is negative, they will no longer need to continue quarantining until the end of the 10 day period.
If the test result is positive, they must continue to self-isolate for a further 10 full days. People in the same household or support bubble must also then self-isolate for 10 full days. The isolation period includes the date the test was taken or any symptoms started and the next 10 full days.
If test is inconclusive the passenger must continue to quarantine but they may choose to take another privately provided test.
If they should develop symptoms after a negative test, they must follow the usual guidance on self-isolation and seek out an NHS test and trace test as soon as possible, even if they have recently received a negative result from a private test. If the NHS test is positive they must continue to self-isolate for 10 full days. The isolation period includes the date the symptoms started and the next 10 full days.
Those who choose to opt into the scheme will have to book and pay for a test from a private provider on the GOV.UK list, they will not be eligible to use the NHS Test and Trace for this type of test, unless they have coronavirus symptoms. Tests provided by the NHS Test & Trace will not allow a passenger to shorten their isolation period. Passengers who have used the NHS Test and Trace because they have coronavirus symptoms, must continue to self-isolate if the result from an NHS Test & Trace test is negative. They may be fined if they use a negative NHS test result to try to end their quarantine period early, only a negative test that has been paid for under the Test to Release scheme can be used to end the quarantine period earlier than 10 days.
The private test will need to be booked before travel to England. Upon arrival in England passengers will still need to complete a passenger locator form where they can choose to opt into the scheme and self-isolate for 5 days before the test can be taken. If the test is not booked until after arrival in England, a new passenger locator form will need to be completed.
Passengers who choose not to take the optional test and have no other exemption applicable to them, will need to quarantine as usual for 10 days.
The scheme details can be found here. There is no Test to Release scheme operated in Wales.
From 8 June 2020, employers will need to ensure that as well as any new starters, any existing employees returning from work or annual leave abroad comply with the quarantine requirements, unless they are exempt or have travelled from a ‘green list’ country or an ‘amber list’ country and who are fully vaccinated with an NHS administered vaccine. For the avoidance of doubt, they will not be covered by the seasonal workers exemption unless their employment fluctuates or is restricted due to the season or time of year and therefore unless they fall under one of the other exemptions listed, they will have to quarantine for up to 10 full days in England or 10 days in Wales in their own accommodation upon returning to the UK if they have travelled from or through an ‘amber list’ country and who are not fully vaccinated. They may however be eligible for the ‘Test to Release’ scheme (see above for more details). If they have travelled from or through a ‘red list’ country they will need to quarantine in a managed hotel for 10 full days.
Where employers know that employees are taking annual leave and are likely to be visiting a country where they may need to quarantine upon their return to the UK, they should discuss the quarantine requirements with the employee before they go away to ensure they understand the rules that apply on their return. It should be remembered that the countries on the lists may change at short notice and/or whilst the employee is away. Employers should agree how the employee's return will be managed. Consider working from home, unpaid or paid leave, or further annual leave to cover any self-isolation periods.
Guidance has been produced on self-isolating after returning to the UK to help employers and employees.
There are no provisions in place for this period of quarantine to be paid and there is no entitlement to SSP. There is no obligation on employers to pay their employees quarantining in these circumstances, but they may choose to do so, or may agree that the employee can take annual leave to cover this time, where possible. Where the employee is having to quarantine due to a work related trip, it would be reasonable and advisable for an employer to give full pay for this period.