Are you also looking forward to it? The press conference early May of this year in which, among other things, a relaxation of the travel advice was announced already led to a rush on vacations abroad. With the recently announced further relaxations and the European corona passport in the pipeline, the urge to travel abroad this summer will only increase. All the more reason for employers to bring their holiday policy to the attention of their employees. After all, holidays abroad in times of corona are still not without risks.
At the moment, ‘code orange’ or ‘high risk area’ still applies to almost all countries, both within and outside Europe. This means that travel to these countries is not recommended unless strictly necessary. Holiday travel does not fall under necessary travel and is therefore still not recommended by the government – regardless of whether or not one has been vaccinated. And although it seemed that for a large number of countries the colour code would be changed to yellow, this is not the case at the moment. In fact, for some yellow parts of Greece (the South Aegean Islands), the travel advice as of May 30 has been changed back from yellow to orange. Also, there is still a European entry ban (with exceptions) for travellers coming from countries outside the EU.
If one nevertheless travels to these ‘orange areas’, the following applies when returning to the Netherlands:
- You must have a negative PCR test; and
- You are strongly advised to go into home quarantine for 10 days;.
A coronatest can be done on day 5; in the event of a negative result, the advised home quarantine ends.
In addition, as of June 1 this year, there is a mandatory quarantine requirement when travellers return from countries designated as a “very high risk area” and “exceptionally high risk area”. Although not clearly stated, we assume that the countries with colour code red (for which a “do not travel” advice applies) are considered exceptionally high-risk areas and the quarantine obligation will apply anyway. But countries with the colour code orange can also be identified by the Government as ‘very high risk area’. At this moment Cyprus, Lithuania and Sweden are designated as countries within Europe for which the quarantine obligation will apply. Because this can change at any time, it is important to keep a close eye on the website of the Government. And yes, the quarantine obligation also applies to people who have already been fully vaccinated.
The quarantine obligation means that, in addition to being able to show a negative PCR test, the person in question:
- Must also be able to show a completed and signed quarantine declaration at the time of entry into the Netherlands – this obligation also applies if one may fall under an exception to the quarantine obligation;
- Goes into mandatory home quarantine for 10 days;
- Can take a test on day 5; if the result is negative, the mandatory home quarantine ends;
- May incur a fine of €95 for not being able to produce a completed and signed quarantine declaration;
- Will incur a fine of € 339 in case of failure to comply with the quarantine obligations. Compliance with the mandatory quarantine will be checked at the quarantine address and phone number provided.
It is not clear how the Dutch quarantine requirement will relate to the European coronas passport. The purpose of this passport is precisely to exempt travellers legally residing in the European Union and in possession of this passport from any travel restrictions. This does not seem to be the case for the quarantine obligation that the Netherlands is now introducing; after all, it applies regardless of whether one has been fully or partially vaccinated.
What does this mean for workers?
As was the case last summer, there remains a real possibility that employees will be faced with a home quarantine obligation upon returning to the Netherlands if they decide to go on holiday to an “orange” country after all. The urgent quarantine advice remains in force for orange countries and there is now a quarantine obligation for a number of countries. For employees who cannot work from home, this again creates a problem since, in principle, they are not entitled to wages during this quarantine period.
In addition, the change on May 30 with regard to parts of Greece shows that areas that were recently assigned code yellow can turn orange again within a short period of time. Employees can then suddenly be confronted with a different travel advice during or shortly before their holiday, which in any case includes a strongly recommended home quarantine. Not to mention the possibility of countries even going back to lockdown and employees not being able to return from their holidays.
If an employee wants to go on holiday to a country with the colour code ‘red’, it is simple: as an employer you may refuse such a request. If the employee goes anyway, the consequences are at his own expense and risk. In the event of actual illness, the situation is more nuanced.
For the current ‘orange’ and ‘yellow’ countries it is more complicated and it is important to keep a close eye on the government’s website.
The urgent advice is therefore not to let it come down to a discussion, but to properly lay down the consequences of traveling abroad (especially to high-risk areas) for employees in holiday policy and to communicate this clearly. We are, of course, happy to assist you in drafting such policy and in answering any questions you may have.