Now that the rules for Christmas under Covid-19 are set in the UK, businesses with employees overseas are likely to have a number of questions about what this means for their employees working abroad. There will be questions about whether or not their staff will be able to return to the UK for Christmas and how they can best support them during this time.

Coming home for Christmas will be an unusual undertaking this year and for many, may not be possible at all. Despite the UK Government relaxing the rules over the festive period (23 to 27 December) travel to the UK from abroad will continue to be governed by the travel corridor approach. Any employees will still need to self-isolate for 14 days, if arriving from or having travelled through a non-travel corridor country or territory. And, of course, any local guidelines must be adhered to.

Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “Based on the latest guidance it looks like there will only be a five-day window for Christmas meet ups with friends and family. This may well mean that people who work abroad won’t be travelling home this year, as they will invariably need to quarantine based on the rules of the country they are travelling to or from, their own company’s rules, or their personal decision. Employers with international staff will need, therefore, to be especially supportive through these difficult times.”

Key ways employers can support international employees over the holiday period

  • Communicate: speak to overseas employees, ask them what help they need
  • Be thoughtful: showing a company cares can go a long way in challenging times. Sending overseas employees, a gift, enhancing support, or just getting in touch personally, could give a big boost to morale
  • Offer support: this will be an emotionally draining time for some. It’s a good idea to check if health and wellbeing programmes include access to support for mental wellbeing and remind employees what support is available.
  • Be sociable: employees abroad may feel isolated at this time, particularly if they are in a country where Christmas is not being celebrated. Be creative in arranging remote social events.
  • Encourage people to think of others: one of the best mental boosts is often actually as a result of helping others. Encourage employees to get involved with local communities where they are posted and to give a helping hand where possible

Providing practical support for those heading home

For employees who can travel home to the UK for Christmas and choose to do so, there are practical considerations to be taken into account. Under the ‘test to release’ scheme, from 15 December passengers arriving in England from countries not featured on the Government’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a Covid test after five days of isolation. A negative result will release them from the need to isolate.