The recent government announcement that people returning from Spain will need to self-quarantine for two weeks has caused considerable concern. If you come back from Spain and need to self isolate, is there any financial help available?
Sarah Healey Pearce, Business Advisory Director explains: “If you need to self isolate after coming back from a holiday or business trip then you are not automatically entitled to any statutory sick pay (SSP).
The website for the government (gov.uk) states ‘You cannot get SSP if you are self-isolating after entering or returning to the UK and do not need to self-isolate for any other reason.’
Sarah continues “If you need to self isolate after you come back from Spain (or any other country that the government declares to be high risk) then you need to contact your employer as soon as possible. If you are able to work from home then you should do so with agreement from your employer, and you can be paid as normal. If not there are a number of options:
- Take the two weeks as annual leave
This option will allow you to be paid while you are self isolating, however remember this will use up part of your annual holiday allowance.
- Take the two weeks as unpaid leave
This means you will not be paid for the two weeks you are in self-isolation, so you need to be sure you are able to keep up with any financial commitments such as mortgage or rent.
- Receive discretionary sick pay
Your employer may choose to give you sick pay However this is entirely their choice and they are under no obligation to do so.
- Become furloughed
If you have previously been furloughed then your employer can choose to furlough you again for the period of self quarantine, although this is up to them, and as the levels of government support for furlough decreases over the coming months this may be a less appealing option for employers.
What financial help can I get if I develop symptoms for Covid-19?
If you become sick with Covid-19 then you are entitled to SSP which is currently £95.85 per week. There are also other options under Universal Credit and the Employment Support Allowance https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance/eligibility
If I have booked a trip to Spain can I get my money back?
If you have booked a package holiday which is cancelled then you are entitled to a refund within 14 days (although as has been widely reported, many firms are taking much longer to deal with refunds at the moment). You may also be offered an alternative such as a voucher against a future booking, or a change of date for your holiday.
However, this is a fast-moving situation, and many holiday firms have not yet cancelled flights as they will still need to run outbound flights in order to bring the holidaymakers from Spain back to the UK. Consequently they are not obliged to offer refunds. It is essential to check with your holiday provider or airline to check their policy and see what your options are.
If you have booked accommodation or car hire separately then any refunds or re-bookings will depend on the terms and conditions of the supplier you booked with. Many are allowing customers to postpone the booking, but the chances of getting a refund are less likely.
If you are still unable to claim a refund you may be able to claim the cost of the booking through insurance (see below), your credit card provider (under Section 75) or a chargeback, which is a scheme offered by some banks.
Will my insurance cover me?
If you are already in Spain on 26 July (or in the Balearics on 27 July) when the UK government advice on travel there changed, then your existing insurance may cover you.
However, if you travel to Spain (or any other country listed as being high risk) while the Foreign Office advice is not to travel there then your insurance is invalid. If you have an accident or become unwell you will not be able to claim back the cost of any help or treatment you receive.
If you booked your holiday and took out insurance before the travel restrictions to Spain were announced then your insurer should be able to refund you, providing that the current Foreign Office advice is still in place. However you will need to show that you have tried to get a refund through the normal channels before any insurer will consider your claim.
Emma Emmerson, Insurance Executive comments “There are some insurers who are now writing new covers for travel insurance, but they will have Covid 19 exclusions on all sections other than medical expenses. Additionally the traveller must have booked their holiday and had travel insurance in place at a time when the FCO were not advising against travel (before 11 March 2020 when the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic).”