Explained: What are your rights when returning to the UK from Spain?

27 July 2020, 14:49

New quarantines rules for those returning from Spain have left people confused
New quarantines rules for those returning from Spain have left people confused. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

British holidaymakers who visit Spain will now be required to self-isolate for two weeks upon returning to the UK, leading to uncertainty over the new rules.

Spain has been removed from the Government's list of safe countries to travel to following a surge in coronavirus cases.

The new quarantine measure was swiftly implemented on Saturday, giving Brits from all four UK nations just four hours' notice to return home from the Spanish mainland, Canary Islands and Balearic Islands.

Read more: Transport Secretary will quarantine after flying to Spain on same day new rules announced

Read more: Spain holidays - How will the new announcement affect my travel plans?

Read more: British Airways says changes to Spain quarantine rules 'another blow' to industry

Tui, the UK's largest travel firm, has since said "regional travel corridors" should be considered while warning the government that "uncertainty and confusion" was damaging the travel industry.

And British tourists have been left "shocked and confused" by the government's decision which currently has no end date.

So what are your rights under the new rules?

What should people do if they are already in Spain?

People currently on holiday in Spain have been encouraged to follow the local rules, return home as normal and check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) travel advice pages on gov.uk for further information.

The FCO is not advising those already travelling in Spain to leave.

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) - the UK's travel trade association - has advised customers in the country to continue their holidays and return as normal.

What will happen with travel insurance?

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said it is "likely" that travel insurance will remain in place for holidaymakers already in Spain until they return home.

However, those attempting to travel to countries against FCO advice would invalidate their travel insurance.

The ABI said people who booked a trip or took out travel insurance after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic may not be covered for travel disruption or cancellation. In either circumstance, travellers should check with their insurer.

Which workers are exempt from the quarantine rules?

Medical and care workers who are providing essential healthcare are on the government's list of people who are exempt from going into self-isolation.

Others include road haulage and freight workers, season agricultural workers (if they go into quarantine where they are working), or UK residents who usually travel overseas at least once for work.

Eurotunnel and Eurostar drivers and crew members are included, as well as those working on the Channel Tunnel system.

A full list can be found here.

What about employers whose staff are forced to self-isolate?

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said no worker following quarantine guidance should be penalised by employers, including by being put onto sick pay.

He said that if someone is following the law in relation to quarantine and self-isolating, "they can't have penalties taken against them," however Labour wants the government to do more to help self-isolating employees.

The conciliation service Acas has advised employees returning from Spain to talk to their employer as soon as possible, saying unless employees are actually ill, they are unlikely to qualify for statutory sick pay - although an employer could still offer to pay this if it wanted to.

If they have previously been furloughed, they could agree to a further period of furlough to cover the isolation period. Or they could agree a further period of annual leave, a period of unpaid leave or a mix of the two.

What does it mean if you have a holiday booked?

Holiday operator TUI announced it would cancel holidays to Spain in response to the announcement, with a spokesman saying that every customer already in the country will be “proactively contacted to discuss their options."

Abta has advised customers who are due to travel to the country imminently to contact their travel provider.

Flights could be cancelled if air companies are unable to fill seats as a result of cancelled holidays, meaning that even if you do decide to go on holiday, you may struggle to find a flight to your destination.

However, airline company easyJet said it planned to operate its full schedule in the coming days.

The government said people should continue to check the FCO's travel advice and their insurance policies before embarking on any overseas travel.

Should you self-isolate when returning from the Balearic or Canary Islands?

The rise in cases has primarily occurred on mainland Spain, leading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to advise against all but essential travel to the mainland, with only the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands exempt.

However, with the Department for Transport announcing the "air-bridge" to Spain has been axed, anyone coming from any Spanish territory - including its islands - must now self-isolate.

The Canary Islands include Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa. The Balearic Islands include Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera.

A spokesman for the Abta recommended lifting quarantine rules for flights to and from the Balearic Islands or The Canaries due to their lower rates "to avoid further damage to the UK inbound and outbound tourism industries."

Why has Spain been removed from the list of safe countries?

Several of Spain's regions have experienced a rise in new Covid-19 cases, with the country's deputy chief of health emergencies speculating that it could be experiencing a second wave of infections after reporting more than 900 new daily cases for the past two days.

The decision, which Dominic Raab said he would not apologise for, was made by the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England after assessing Spain's latest data.

A UK Government spokesman said: "Protecting public health is our absolute priority and we have taken this decision to limit any potential spread to the UK.

"We've always been clear that we would act immediately to remove a country where necessary."

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