There are reportedly 2 million in the UK suffering from Long COVID
According to data released in January 2023, there are 2 million people in the UK suffering from long Covid, which causes symptoms like fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and difficulty breathing. A recent survey by the TUC found that 63% of respondents said the illness has limited their ability to carry out everyday activities, and half of them believe they contracted Covid-19 at work. However, supporting employees with long Covid is difficult for employers since it’s a new condition and challenging to diagnose.
If an employee’s long Covid symptoms amount to a disability, there are legal implications about their duty of support. The general duty to provide a safe work environment free of bullying and harassment applies, and if long Covid is a substantial and long-term adverse effect on an employee’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, the employee could be protected under the Equality Act 2010.
Almost a quarter of respondents said their employer has questioned whether they have long Covid and/or the impact of their symptoms, and more than one in 10 suffering from long Covid have not informed their employers of their symptoms. Of the employees who asked for changes in their job to accommodate their condition, half were not given all or any of the changes needed to manage their job.
Adam Hadfield, Clinical Governance Manager at wellbeing consultancy GoodShape, said: “The lack of training around Long COVID leaves managers unequipped to support employees and employees feeling stigma around reporting their illness. Employers should put a specific long COVID policy in place, including educating staff on long COVID symptoms, fast-tracking occupational health referrals, and adding Long COVID to the absence policy.”
The TUC and Long COVID Support have called for the government to specify Long COVID as a legal disability, strengthen flexible working rights, and provide universal access to occupational health. These findings are from a self-selecting survey of 3,097 people with Long COVID in September and October 2022 on their experiences of work.