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Dealing With Long-Covid

Employers are increasingly aware of employees who have ‘long-covid’.

There is general acceptance that it does exist, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has already published a definition for ‘long Covid’ (or ‘Post-Covid 19 Syndrome’). Government figures have revealed that around 385,000 people have lived with the symptoms for a year or more.

But is it a disability? There is a petition to include ‘long-covid’ to the list of disabilities in The Equality Act 2010, and it may become law in the future. In legal terms, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantive and long-term negative effect on a person’s ability to do normal day-to-day activities’ (ACAS, 2021). ‘Long-term’ means the impairment will be over 12 months in duration and will last for the rest of the individual’s life.

Most companies are sympathetic and understand the effects it may have on an individual’s health. Symptoms include mental ‘fog’, fatigue, and shortness of breath. We are still gathering data, but it is probably better for employees to make reasonable adjustments in the short term rather than considering it as a disability.

Reasonable adjustments could include working from home, shorter hours, a change in tasks to reduce stress or consideration of regular breaks. Employers should also review trigger points for taking disciplinary actions due to absence. Further, organisations must remember that long-covid appears to have more severe effects on older people, ethnic minorities and women, and consideration must be given to discrimination.

One thing is for sure – we can be confident that we will learn more about long-covid in the months ahead.

Please contact paul@coppicehr.com to discuss how we can assist with HR in your organisation.