On Monday 29 March 2021, the "stay at home" restrictions ended and are replaced by "stay in the UK" restrictions. Under new regulations, it will remain unlawful to leave the UK unless you fall within one of the specified reasonable excuses.
As is currently the case, one of the reasonable excuses to travel outside the UK is for limited work purposes. The regulations provide little detail, simply stating that the reasonable excuse applies “where it is reasonably necessary for a person to leave the UK for the purposes of their work, if it is not reasonably possible for them to work from a location within the UK.” This wording arguably leaves some flexibility for employees to travel for work in certain circumstances.
However, supplementing the strict legal position is government guidance which provides further detail. It says that only essential travel for business or official work purposes, where it is not reasonably possible to complete that work from home, is permitted. Examples given demonstrate that this exception is intended to be limited in scope: “essential work or returning overseas having completed essential work, in relation to critical national infrastructure including the national rail network, national security or diplomatic purposes, and elite sports competitions.”
If employees fall within this reasonable excuse and intend to travel outside the UK, they will need to carry a travel declaration form to evidence their legal reason when travelling to, and when at, their embarkation point. A form is provided in the guidance. The guidance recommends that employees also carry evidence of their reasonable excuse in the form of an employer’s letter, professional ID card, confirmation from a sports body or evidence of participation, diplomatic mission letter, or other appropriate documentation.
Anyone caught trying to travel abroad without a reasonable excuse could now be fined up to £5,000.
These new rules apply to those travelling outside the UK from England. Different rules apply when departing from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Travel to the “common travel area” within the UK, to Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man is allowed.
The regulations are currently due to expire on 30 June 2021, but the need for the restrictions will be reviewed by the Secretary of State every 35 days. The government’s roadmap, published on 22 February 2021, anticipated that international travel might be allowed from 17 May 2021. We will have to wait to see if this is still an achievable aim.