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Quarantining after returning from abroad?

  • 17/08/2020
  • Author:bridgetmccall

Read our guide to your employment rights and what help might be available

Young woman sitting by a window

Do I have to stay at home if I come to the UK from abroad?

People returning to the UK from most of the world have to stay at home for 14 days after returning. 

The only exception to this is if you have returned from a country on the exempt list.

People who fail to quarantine can be fined.

Does my boss have to pay me if I have to stay at home?

First of all, you should talk to your employer. 

If you can, try to work from home.

If you can’t work from home, or if your employer won’t agree to you working from home, you may need to negotiate with your employer

You won’t be able to get Statutory Sick Pay while you’re in quarantine. 

If you have been furloughed at least once during the coronavirus outbreak, your employer might be willing to add you to the furlough scheme while you’re self-isolating. 

If you have enough annual leave left to cover 14 days off, your employer might agree to you using your annual leave while you have to stay at home.

If you don’t have enough annual leave, you may have to ask your employer to allow you to take unpaid leave. If you were abroad to deal with an emergency that related to a family member or a dependent, your employer has to agree to you taking unpaid leave. If you were out of the UK for any other reason, your employer doesn’t have to agree to you taking unpaid leave.

A lot of this is down to your employer, so it is important you talk to your employer as soon as possible.

If you don’t feel your employer is treating you fairly, you should speak to Acas.

If I’m not paid while I am staying home, can I get any help?

If you have made national insurance contributions during the tax years 2017/18 and 2018/19, you should be entitled to New Style Employment and Support Allowance. This is paid at £74.35 per week for people over 25 or £58.90 per week for people under 25.

In general, the benefits system isn’t designed to cover short term drops in income and doesn’t handle this situation very well.

If you are already receiving Universal Credit, the drop in your income for this assessment period will be taken into account when working out how much Universal Credit you can receive. 

If you are already receiving Housing Benefit (England, Wales, Scotland), Housing Benefit (Northern Ireland), income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or tax credits (Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit), you should speak to an adviser to decide whether you will be better off staying on your usual benefits or making a claim for Universal Credit.

If you’re not getting any benefits at the moment, it is possible you may be entitled to Universal Credit to top up your income. Universal Credit is awarded based on month-long Assessment Periods. If you want to use our Benefits Calculator to check how much Universal Credit you could get while you’re on unpaid leave, make sure you enter as your income the earnings you expect to receive for the month your two-week isolation period falls in. If you’re struggling with this, call our helpline free on 0808 802 2000 Mon-Fri 8 am – 6.30 pm.

The Universal Credit payment you’re entitled to for each Assessment Period is based on the income you received during that Assessment Period. This means that it is very important to get the timing of your claim right when claiming Universal Credit.


For example, Mark is coming back from a holiday and will have to isolate for two weeks. He is paid on the 20th of the month each month and today is the 17th.  His pay on the 20th of this month will be his usual full pay. It won’t be until his pay on the 20th of next month that he sees his income affected by having to take two weeks of unpaid leave.

If Mark claims Universal Credit today, on the 17th, his Assessment Period will be from the 17th of each month to the 16th of the following month. This means his normal full pay will be taken into account when working out how much benefits he can get in his first Assessment Period. However, if he waits until the 22nd to claim, his first Universal Credit entitlement for his first Assessment Period will be based on his monthly earnings taking into account his two weeks of unpaid leave.

This is complicated and can be hard to work out, so you might like to speak to an adviser.

Can I get other support?

There are lots of charities in the UK that give grants to people in financial difficulty, depending on their background, circumstances and needs. You can use our Grants Search to look for charities that support people like you.

If you have debts, you should speak to your lenders and explain your circumstances. If you’re struggling with your debts, you can find free, confidential, non-judgemental debt advice.

Be careful about borrowing money to get through your two-week isolation. Many lenders have very high interest rates and loans can become extremely expensive. The Money Advice Service offers advice on alternatives to high cost credit. 


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