Travel restrictions during the Coronavirus outbreak: considerations for employers

On 17 March 2020 it was announced that, in response to the global outbreak of Coronavirus, most non-EU nationals are banned from entering Schengen Area member countries or Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. This ban is in place for a 30-day period and may be extended.

Ireland and the United Kingdom are not covered by the EU ban as they are not Schengen Area members, but may nevertheless decide to join the EU with implementing similar measures.

Currently, entry remains permitted for EU nationals, UK nationals and nationals of Schengen associated countries (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland). Entry also remains permitted for EU long-term residence permit holders and their family members, cross-border workers, medical staff, researchers and diplomats.

To date the UK Government has simply advised that all non-essential foreign travel should be avoided. However, many other countries worldwide have enforced strict travel bans in the hope of preventing the further spread of coronavirus.

What could this mean for businesses?

If businesses have employees who need to travel for their work, this will be significantly impacted.

The measures outlined above may delay foreign workers’ start dates, regardless of whether they already have their work and entry visa, by at least 30 days.

Employers should continue to monitor the situation as travel advice and border restrictions are changing from day to day.

Practical steps employers can take

Employers should aim to be flexible with their employees about their working arrangements, as each employee’s situation will be slightly different and circumstances may change significantly from day to day.

Businesses should also embrace the use of technology to avoid the need for travel. Employees should be encouraged to work remotely wherever possible. Face-to-face meetings should be moved online, for example with the use of video conferencing software.

If employers have foreign workers who are due to travel to the UK and commence work with them in the near future, we recommend that they plan ahead and communicate options in case international travel remains unfeasible.

Most importantly, employers should communicate effectively with their existing employees and potential new recruits, notifying them of any changes of circumstances and making sure all employees are aware of the current travel restrictions and how the business is going to handle them. The global situation is rapidly changing and so businesses need to prepare as much as possible for further restrictions.

If you have concerns or queries regarding business travel during this time, please contact a Business Immigration specialist.

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