The Coronavirus pandemic continues to affect international travel. In May 2021, the Government announced a traffic light system to allow free travel back to England from countries on the “green list”. Different rules apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Which countries are on the green list?

The following travel destinations are currently on the green list:

Australia, Brunei, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Portugal and Singapore. Also included is travel within the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

What does travelling to a green list country mean?

Individuals will need to take a Covid test before departure and a PCR test within two days of returning home. There will be no need to quarantine if the PCR test result is negative. If the test is positive or Test and Trace inform the individual that someone they travelled with has tested positive, they will need to enter ten days of quarantine.

If a flight from a green list country transits through an amber or red list country, then the individual will need to follow the rules for the highest risk country.

What does amber and red lists mean for travel?

Whilst it is legal to travel to an amber list country, including popular holiday destinations such as France, Italy, Spain and the United States, the Government has stated that this should only be done if absolutely essential, such as urgent family or business reasons.

If the individual does travel to an amber list country, they will need to take a Covid test before departure and a PCR test both within two days and eight days of returning. Returning from an amber country will require ten days of quarantining at home.

Under the Test and Release rules, after five days of quarantine, the individual may pay for and take a private Covid test. If the result is negative, quarantine can end early, but the individual will still be required to take another test after eight days. If the result is positive, a further ten-day period of quarantine will start.

On 25th May 2021, the Government stated that certain amber travel destinations such as the Greek or Spanish islands, where infection rates are lower than the mainland, could be moved to the green list or not require quarantine.

The Government has stated that people should not travel to red list countries. If an individual has returned from a red list country, then they are required to book into a managed quarantine hotel for ten days. An 11-night stay in a quarantine hotel will cost £1,750 per adult, £650 for a child over the age of 11, and £325 for a child aged 5 to 11. If the quarantine hotel has not been arranged prior to arrival in England, individuals may be fined up to an additional £4,000. The same day two and day eight, PCR tests will apply.

What are the criteria for countries being on each list?

The lists will be decided based on the following criteria:

  • Scientific data capabilities of the destination countries.
  • COVID-19 transmission risk.
  • Variant of concern transmission risk.

The lists will be reviewed every three weeks, with the next review to come into effect from 7th June 2021. These are likely to be announced ahead of time to allow people to return to the UK prior to any change to a higher risk list.

What does quarantine mean for employees?

If an employee who has to quarantine can work from home during their self-isolation, they should continue to be paid as normal. However, an employer may consider that it is not appropriate for an employee to work from a managed quarantine hotel due to potential data security issues.

The position regarding pay is less clear for those employees who are required to quarantine but cannot work from home. If a holiday to an amber or red country was booked by an employee knowing that they would need to quarantine and miss additional work on return, it may be arguable that this period should be unpaid as the employee was not involuntarily restrained from being able to work.

Alternatively, an employer could require an employee to use further annual leave to cover the period of quarantine, which may dissuade employees from booking holidays to amber and red list destinations.

Employees are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are self-isolating after travel abroad and cannot work from home, although an employer can choose to pay sick pay. However, if an employee has tested positive for Covid or is genuinely ill, they would still qualify for SSP.

Can an employer restrict an employee’s travel plans?

Employers may wish to consider imposing their own restrictions on employees, particularly regarding travel to amber and red list countries. However, depending on the circumstances, restricting an employee’s activities during leisure time may not be regarded as a reasonable management instruction, and disciplinary action for breach of any restrictions may not be proportionate.

What should an employer be doing?

It would be advisable for employers to have a policy setting out the position in terms of travelling to green, amber and red list destinations and how this may affect an employee’s pay or annual leave entitlement.

Here to Help

If you require further information and assistance on how travel issues may disrupt work issues, you can contact a member of our Employment Team on 0161 941 4000 or email The Employment Team.