At a very high level, the new quarantine rules state that anyone arriving in the UK from an international destination must now self-isolate for 14 days. There are, however, several exceptions to this, including one for freight drivers. Since the rules around quarantine are a lot more complex than the headline might suggest, here is a more detailed breakdown of them as they currently stand. Please remember that they are subject to change.
Road haulage and freight workers are completely exempt from quarantine rules
It’s arguably not particularly surprising that road haulage and freight workers are exempt from self-isolating after they return from work trips. It may be slightly more surprising that they are exempt from self-isolating after any overseas trip, including holidays. As the rules currently stand, however, in practice, road haulage and freight workers are, effectively, free to come and go as they please.
That said, partners and dependents do not qualify for the exemption (unless they are with a diplomat or representative of an international organisation). Furthermore, the government still advises against non-essential travel (although it is advice rather than a rule). It’s therefore arguably rather unlikely that the exemption will lead to a mass of road haulage and freight workers taking the opportunity to have a family holiday.
Travellers arriving from the RoI, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are exempt
The decision to permit unrestricted entry from Ireland has become known as the “Dublin dodge” and has become highly controversial. While there has long been free movement between the UK and the RoI, as the agreement currently stands, there is absolutely nothing to stop travellers from anywhere in the world from making their way to the RoI and then on to the UK.
In principle, the same applies to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. In practice, however, their size really limits the extent to which they can accommodate international flights.
Road passenger transport workers are exempt
In addition to road haulage and freight workers, road passenger transport workers are also exempt. This raises interesting questions about how far the exemption stretches. To begin with, the phrasing is “worker” rather than driver, so, in principle, it could cover anyone who works in any of these industries in any capacity. To a certain extent at least, this would make sense because drivers rely on a network of support staff without whom they could not function.
Similarly, if you pushed the point, then people as taxi and minicab drivers might also qualify as road passenger transport workers. In fact, this raises the question of whether or not Uber drivers would qualify.
Interestingly only international rail staff (including rail-freight staff) are exempt from the quarantine requirements. Staff working for domestic rail services will have to self-isolate.
Although the haulage industry is separate from the passenger-transport industry, there is a connection between them. Quite simply, the haulage industry does need to get at least some of its staff on-site and it cannot rely on them all having access to personal transport all of the time.
There are exemptions for some technical staff
There is a very broad-base exemption for workers “with specialist technical skills, where those specialist technical skills are required for essential or emergency works or services (including commissioning, maintenance, and repairs and safety checks) to ensure the continued production, supply, movement, manufacture, storage or preservation of goods.”.
This could be good news for companies which needed to bring in staff to fix technical issues even if they weren’t covered under the exemption for road haulage and freight workers. This might include freelance contractors with specific technical skills such as IT.
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