A: Going forward, employers should advise employees that leave applications will be treated more strictly, to reflect the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact.
Employers should outline that overseas holidays will only be approved in specific circumstances, and that the employer and employee will have to reach an agreement regarding the management of the self-isolation period upon the employee’s return. Employers can also advise that if an employee proceeds with an overseas holiday without the employer’s agreement, this may constitute serious misconduct and may warrant dismissal.
If the employee cannot work from home, and they do not have sufficient annual leave entitlements to cover the self-isolation period, the employer is entitled to deny the employee’s overseas holiday request on operational grounds. The employer may also deny the leave application if the business is unable to accommodate the employee’s additional two-week absence for self-isolation.
If an employee has already booked an overseas holiday, but has not yet received approval from their employer, the employer may treat this as an application made after 14 March 2020, depending on the employer’s internal holiday leave systems.
Both employers and employees should be aware of the Ministry of Health’s travel advice, which is regularly updated.