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As part of a new job for an international and well-respected company, a friend of mine is moving to a different country.

This country does not have in place a mandatory quarantine for travellers arriving there, but rather a suggestion of keeping it. However, the company informed him he has to follow a strict quaratine, (supposedly) as part of an agreement with the local government in order to provide working visas to new employees.

Although he doesn't plan to oppose to such quarantine (and it is probably a good idea), I am surprised about the idea of restricting the freedom of movement of an employee, even if informally the local government may agree. While I could understand to make a mandatory working-from-home period, it is hard for me to glimpse the legality of a quarantine, or the possible measures in order to enforce it, as there is no law stating "workers from company X must observe quarantine".

Therefore my question: could an international company enforce a realistic and mandatory quarantine period on their employees?

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    What do you mean by enforce? Lock him in a hotel and put a guard on the door? Not in most countries no. Make his continued employment contingent on observing a quarantine that may or may not be a legal requirement? Probably. By and large, most countries are playing fast and loose with their legal frameworks where quarantine is concerned so this is almost impossible to answer even if you limited it to just one country. I'm not sure there's a way to practically answer a question this generic unless you want to look at the ethical angle ("should a company do this?").
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 31, 2020 at 15:47
  • This is certainly depending a lot on the country, and anyway a huge lot of Covid-related rules are not stricto sensu "legal" anyway as laws often require quite some time to be fully voted. The whole question is how effectively can any government, let alone private companies, enforce or control quarantine without itself breaking the law by retaining people against their will. I understand the mentioned quarantine as a mandatory WFH OR having the work contract start only 2 weeks after your friend entered the country.
    – Laurent S.
    Aug 31, 2020 at 15:50
  • @Lilienthal seems to me like a perfect candidate for cannon, we had few of those before, and there are finite amount of countries (plus this topic came up few times before)
    – Aida Paul
    Aug 31, 2020 at 15:51
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    Thanks for the comments. I understand the importance of the country from a legal point of view, but I would rather not disclose it due to confidentiality reasons and because I am interested in a general view on the topic
    – Ripstein
    Aug 31, 2020 at 15:56
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    @TymoteuszPaul It's why I said most not all. :) We tend to assume a Western perspective here on those questions but it's another reason why I'd only see this question being decently answerable if it's very clear what the main question is. An academic look at employee protections across the world is interesting but not our scope: we'd want answers with practical value.
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 31, 2020 at 16:12

4 Answers 4

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The answer is for 1st world countries with well established human rights record. For other countries please seek the other answers (seems like a good candidate for canonical).

Therefore my question: could an international company enforce a realistic and mandatory quarantine period on their employees?

Directly? No. The company has very little say in what employees do after working hours, and even their say about what employees do during work time is restricted.

But the company likely can also fire someone who violated their internal policy on tackling global pandemic, especially as it aligns with government recommendations. It would be a whole other matter if they made something up, then they may be in some murky water, but having recommendation from gov to quarantine makes the situation much clearer.

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  • Definitely the (theoretical) support of the goverment validates somehow them, good point
    – Ripstein
    Aug 31, 2020 at 15:57
  • "1st world countries with well established human rights record". Well that excludes a lot of countries then. Sep 1, 2020 at 1:04
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While this may not be a legally mandated quarantine imposed by local or national laws, a company is generally allowed to enforce whatever "rules" of employment they wish so long as they are legal. Forcing an employee to self-quarantine seems to me falls under the "These are our rules of employment" purview. If your friend deems this as an imposition on his rights he can choose to not work at this company. Barring that, he could engage the services of an attorney to determine if this is legal.

In the end, any opposition on his part to this quarantine is likely to get him fired from this job, so what is it worth to him to pursue this?

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However, the company informed him he has to follow a strict quarantine, (supposedly) as part of an agreement with the local government in order to provide working visas to new employees.

I think you answered yourself here: Yes they can as it is an agreement with the local government and their laws.

If the company has some sort of agreement with the government (and the government has an established procedure, as it seems) then by all means they most likely are legally bound to follow such procedure.

Thus (IANAL), any person entering that country is subject to local laws and should follow them if they wish to remain/enter that country.

Now, as other answer mentioned, and even assuming there is no government law/directive, the company has it's own internal policies, and they can decide to terminate anyone that does not follow those policies (even though if they weren't able to "force" you to quarantine).

On a side note, this should not be odd or rare to you. Even in my country (not anywhere near "1st world") there is/was a government directive to quarantine people that entered the country due to Covid19 (i.e.: you were legally bound to quarantine, from home if you wished, for 15 days, with police surveillance outside your house :0 ).

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I find the way you present it surprising. Nowadays, requiring a quarantine period (or at least a negative PCR test) for people coming from a different country where there is risk they could have COVID seems the rational thing to do, for all countries.

The actual implementation could vary from being enforced by having military personnel watch that interned people do not break their curfew to just asking nicely and expecting that people would follow their recommendation.

could an international company enforce a realistic and mandatory quarantine period on their employees?

As mentioned by other answers, there is an agreement between the company and your friend that he will quarantine himself. This would probably imply he would lose the job position if he didn't comply. This is probably a good enough way to enforce it by itself.

However, taking your question in a more strict sense, yes, I think an international company could take stronger measures if so they wished.

Suppose company is incorporating 100 foreign employees, which will arrive to the country on September 1st. The company contracts a hotel to host them for the quarantine period. Other than hotel employees, everyone else is expected to stay on their rooms for two weeks.

Could a guest sneak our of their room and out to the street without hotel security noticing? Perhaps. However, the risk would be high for little reason. (This could make the argument of a novel, btw)

Could he be physically restricted from leaving? Maybe not. And if he simply stated very firmly that he wished to leave the hotel, they might have no ground to force them to stay. I wouldn't be too surprised if they nicely informed him that in order to leave that place early he shall do so by taking the next plane out of the country, though.

I would expect that in such situation the company would find/provide a place to live (a corporate housing, perhaps) those two weeks, since the new employee wouldn't be in a situation to search lodging by himself (and it would be unwise to have him visiting different places). In his situation, I would also request that the company provides a procedure so that someone does the shopping for him (maybe a courier, being told about a local grocery store supporting online shopping...), so that he can properly follow the quarantine the company is expecting from him.

Plus, obviously, while being those two weeks on payroll (either if he is asked to start working during the quarantine or not, although the company would probably prefer that he does).

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