So your employee wants to use the travel bubble?

11 May 2021

The risks associated with travelling in the time of COVID are more top of mind now that the travel bubble has opened with Australia and is soon to open with the Cook Islands.

What can employers do to protect their business against an employee being caught up in a COVID outbreak while overseas and being unable to return? We run through the options.

The easiest solution would be to simply ban employees from leaving the country but that would be an over-reach. Annual leave is an employee’s free time to be used as the employee wishes.

However, employers should be engaging with their staff now about their expectations should people be planning an overseas visit. 

This will include being clear that leave applications may be declined where the employee is in a role which is critical to the operation of the workplace and which cannot be performed remotely.

Employers are within their rights to ask that employees notify them of their intention to travel overseas so that the ramifications can be discussed and any risks mitigated to the best extent possible. 

The conversation would cover what it would mean from a work perspective if the employee was unable to return on the intended date, in particular:

  • Whether unpaid leave would be available, and for how long?
  • Where the employee could work remotely, arrangements to take their work laptop or other relevant equipment with them.

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