Elaine McIlroy: Update on coronavirus travel corridors and EU travel restrictions
There have been recent changes to the rules on travel to the UK and to the EU arising out of COVID-19. So, what are the key things employers need to know in relation to business visits and travel arrangements involving their staff? Elaine McIlroy explains.
Travel restrictions: England
In June 2020 a requirement was introduced to require certain individuals to self-isolate for 14 days and/or to complete certain contact details on arrival in England (read more in our earlier blog). For details of the rules applicable to Scotland see below.
With effect from 10 July 2020 specific exemptions will apply in England in relation to the requirement that individuals must self-isolate for 14 days if they return to England from a country outside the common travel area. The common travel area includes the UK, Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Ireland.
Sector-specific / role specific exemptions: England
A number of exemptions were already in place in England for travellers in certain sectors or roles which are summarised here. Specific exemptions in relation to Scotland are dealt with below.
Travel corridor exemptions: England
In addition to these exemptions, a number of so called ‘travel corridor’ exemptions will apply to certain countries and territories with effect from 10 July 2020 for England. That means that from 10 July 2020 individuals will not have to self-isolate when they arrive in England, if they are travelling or returning from one of the countries listed in the exemptions provided that the individual has not been to or stopped in a country that’s not on the travel corridors exemption list in the previous 14 days. The travel corridors list is here - check for updates before arranging any travel as it may change.
Travel restrictions: Scotland
In Scotland, a requirement was also introduced from June 2020 to require certain individuals to self-isolate for 14 days and/or to complete certain contact details on their arrival in Scotland.
In Scotland, there are also sector specific/ role specific exemptions in place from the requirements to self-isolate and/or complete the contact detail declarations which are here (and which differ from the English restrictions).
The Scottish government has not yet announced whether it will recognise the same list of countries in relation to travel corridors. The Scottish government is expected to publish further information on its website in due course in relation to any such travel corridors. If there are any differences in the list, this may cause difficulties/ complexities for those travelling between England and Scotland as different self-isolation requirements would apply in each nation.
Impact of travel restrictions on employers
These rules are relevant for any business which is hosting business visitors to the UK. The rules are also relevant for any business which has employees who may be impacted by the restrictions for personal or business travel. Those arranging overseas business visits outside of the UK will also want to check what local requirements may apply in the country that the visitor is travelling to as well as considering self-isolation requirements on their return.
Employers may want to consider putting clear policies in place about what pay arrangements etc will apply if employees decide to travel to a country which is not subject to a travel corridor and they cannot work from home on their return.
Gradual lifting of travel restrictions in EU
On 30 June 2020, the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation in relation to the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions which were in place as a result of COVID-19 on non-essential travel to countries in the European Union. The recommendation sets out a list of non-EU countries where it has recommended that travel restrictions should be lifted from 1 July 2020 (which is based on criteria including the epidemiological situation and containment measures in place). EU countries do not have to accept the recommendations, but it is likely that they will start to implement these changes. Anyone planning to travel to the EU should check the information on the government website for the specific country concerned or take advice locally.
Which countries are listed in the recommendation?
The countries are listed here. There will be a review of the listed countries every two weeks.
Are there any exceptions?
Individuals from non-EU countries not currently listed in the recommendation will not generally be allowed to enter EU member states. However, the following categories are excluded from this rule:
- EU citizens and their families (and UK nationals are treated in the same way for these purposes);
- Long-term EU residents and their families;
- Travellers with an essential function or need (i.e. healthcare, elderly care, seasonal and frontier workers, passengers travelling for imperative family reasons, amongst others, see the recommendationfor a full list).
Schengen associated countries such as Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also included in the European Council recommendation.
Do EU member states have to implement the recommendation?
The recommendation is not legally binding on EU member states and each member state is responsible for implementing the recommendation. However, member states shouldn’t currently lift travel restrictions for countries outwith the EU, who are not listed in the recommendation.
Elaine McIlroy is a partner at Brodies LLP