Covid-19, Holidays and Employee/Employer Rights

Posted in : Reddy Made Contracts on 10 August 2020
Laura Graham
Reddy Charlton Solicitors
Issues covered: Covid-19; Holidays; Employer and Employee Rights

What is the Green List?

The Government has compiled a ‘Green List’ of countries, which is countries which have approximately the same or lower levels of Covid-19 as Ireland.  Individuals returning from Green List countries are only required to adhere to the usual precautions on returning from abroad rather than having to quarantine for fourteen days. 

The list is reviewed on a fortnightly basis and has already changed from the initial list of countries which the Government put forward due to rising Covid-19 levels in certain countries.  Therefore, even if an individual goes to a country whilst it is on the Green List, it is not guaranteed it will be on the Green List by the time they return from that country.

Can we refuse to let an employee return to the workplace if they have been to a country on the Green List on holiday?

The Government’s position is that employees who return from Green List countries be treated the same as those who have not left.  As such, the employee should be allowed to return in line with the restrictions which the employer has put in place to comply with the Return to Work Safely Protocol. 

Therefore, it may be difficult to lawfully refuse an employee to return to the workplace where they have been to a country on the Green List without breaching the employee’s contract of employment.  Nonetheless, if an employee is able to work from home, the employer could ask the employee to work from home after returning.  It is worth remembering that the Government advice is still that employees should work from home where they can, rather than returning to the workplace.

However, if an employee is unable to work from home and the employer does not want them to return to the workplace purely because they have been to a Green List country, then, if the employee is ready and willing to return to the workplace, the employer will have to pay the employee during the period they ask them to remain away from the workplace. 

What about if the employee was somewhere that was not on the Green List?

Currently the Government guidance that if an individual returns from a country not on the Green List, then the individual will have to restrict their movements for 14 days on their return.  Again, if an employee returns and is able to work remotely, the employer can ask the employee to do so and the employee will be paid as normal.  Whereas, in the case of an employee who cannot work from home, there will be no requirement to pay the employee where they are unable to come to work.

If, during a period of restricted movement, the employee were to become sick, they should inform the employer and the employee should be dealt with in accordance with their Company Sick pay policy.  This is discussed in more detail in another article:

Read here: Payment for COVID-19 Related Sickness Absence

An employer could also opt to ask employees to apply for annual leave or unpaid leave for the period during which they are unable to work.  Employers should also consider whether the travel was essential or non-essential, and it is likely that at this time most travel would be considered non-essential.   

Employers should ensure that they deal with all employees consistently to avoid allegations of discrimination under the Employment Equality Acts.   


This article is correct at 10/08/2020

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Laura Graham
Reddy Charlton Solicitors

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