Over the next few months, organizations will start thinking about re-opening their offices. In conjunction, as travel restrictions begin to slowly lift, employers need to start reviewing how to address employee travel policies and make adjustments to better accommodate growing concerns for health and safety.
Can Employers restrict travel?
Employers are questioning if they can restrict employee travel, whether it is commuting to the office or personal travel. It is important to note that employers cannot dictate where employees travel for personal time off. Although employers may not restrict personal travel, they are allowed to apply pre-travel questions and require employees to follow current travel advisories.
You may ask employees requesting vacation time to disclose their intended travel location. If an employee is traveling to a ‘hot spot’ or states/countries with COVID-19 travel advisories, employers can factor in the amount of time to quarantine at home. Employers may reject vacation time especially if the employee is required to quarantine for days or weeks and stay at home.
If employees are required to commute to the office, employers must consider additional travel restrictions based on the employees’ destination. On the other hand, if employees are telecommuting, it may not be necessary to ask those travel destinations to be disclosed. This may not be a major factor in the approval of time-off, but it does impact whether or not the employee is able to work during their self-quarantine period. If employees need to quarantine, they should be able to work remotely uninterrupted.
Employee Travel Policies Considerations
Employers should have in mind these best practices when creating or making adjustments to their travel policies:
It is important to keep in mind that employers cannot discipline employees for taking paid time off or for travel, but employers can enforce an advanced notice policy. Consider including in the travel policy the requirement for additional notification of requests (such as a month’s notice for requests) for travel when employees request time off and require disclosure of their travel locations.
Continue to review the latest state and local COVID-19 travel advisories from the Center for Diseases Control and the World Health Organization for international travel restrictions.
Factor in the self-quarantine period into the travel policy. Take into consideration whether employees will be required to work from home or take unpaid leave. Employers may require employees to receive a negative COVID-19 test before they return in order to work on site.
Have a clear and concise communication plan with employees.
If you are considering updating or creating a travel policy with COVID-19 travel advisories in mind, you should do so with careful advice from either legal counsel or by a Kiwi Partners’ HR consultant.