Contractors’ Questions: Can I self-isolate less after returning from a covid-risky country?

Contractor’s Question: If I come back to the UK from contracting overseas, I understand that a new and reduced number of days applies to self-isolating to contain any covid-19 infection I might have picked up. Is that correct and what else do us contractors need to know?

Expert’s Answer: You are correct that a new shortened self-isolation period has been applicable in the UK since Monday December 14th. A government statement is available.

The mere fact that business professionals like anyone else returning to the UK must, by law, self-isolate in their home (or the place they stay) if returning from a country where the virus is prevalent, underlines just how much the pandemic has impacted businesses. In our view, it’s been like no other crisis in living memory.

Tougher, easier

Currently, travel restriction levels because of covid-19 still vary from country to country. However in most countries, a common denominator of self-isolation requirements remains in force.

Potentially positively for you, while covid-related restrictions are getting tougher elsewhere, self-isolation requirements in England are now reduced to 10 days, down from14 days.

The self-isolation requirement is directed at people who had been in close contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus, or at people who return from overseas, having been in a ‘non-exempt’ country or territory. Non-exempt refers to all countries/ territories outside the UK’s travel corridors – those which the government deems high-risk. The government list of those locations is changing frequently in tandem with the spread or containment of the virus, so keep a close and regular watch of the list, if you are partial to an overseas contract. 

The positives of less home quarantine time

This relaxation in England from 14 to 10 days should be well-received by workers and clients alike, but perhaps its greatest supporters are likely to be foreign contractors who are required to physically enter England and work on-site/at the client’s premises in England. While it will still likely concern them to have to self-isolate for 10 days, this comparatively shorter period means that they will be able to leave the place where they stay earlier and go out to work, and shop for food.

At the same time, the reduced self-isolation period means four days less in cases where a foreign contractor has a specific task to complete and would prefer to leave the UK a few days earlier.

While shortening the overall period of necessary stay, these removed days can also play a role in tax residency calculations, where every day spent in-country counts towards becoming tax resident there. This ‘counting days ‘is more likely to be of interest to non-UK contractors than for domestic ones. So in this sense, the reduction to 10 days indoors in the work-country marks a minor improvement in an already difficult situation – and for once, tax isn’t the main complication affected workers will probably think of first!

For employers and end-clients in England more generally, having to stay inside and away from the workplace for 10 days instead of 14 days is already being seen as a small step in the right direction towards attracting foreign contractors and reducing the inconvenience for affected parties of a double-digit number of days in home or hotel quarantine.

The expert was Nikolas Papageorgiou, EU country manager at overseas contracting advisory Access Financial.

Thursday 17th Dec 2020
Profile picture for user Nikolas Papageorgiou

Written by Nikolas Papageorgiou

Nikolas Papageorgiou has worked at Access Financial since 2015. He is Country Manager for Europe, which involves predominantly working with recruitment agencies and corporate clients who wish to place contractors in Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. 
Printer Friendly, PDF & Email