We may be seeing the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in the UK, but the virus has not gone away, and I fear its legacy will be evident for some years to come. Long Covid plays a part in that legacy; long term physical and psychological effects of the virus; for some relatively mild, for others hugely debilitating. It presents various complex issues for employers which include but are not limited to the following;
- Varied symptoms in scale and severity – sufferers might have anything from mild flu-like symptoms through to being unable to walk further than a few paces without assistance and a huge range in between these two.
- Lack of clarity as to whether long Covid is a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 – are employers required to make reasonable adjustments for suffers? Could long Covid sufferers be protected from disability discrimination under the EqA?
- Little verified medical data and research on the illness – physicians are still only working on anecdotal evidence as to what treatments are appropriate and what prognoses are realistic.
My colleague, Jackie Morris, has written an article here unpacking these and other issues and giving practical and useful advice. I would advise all employers to take a look at whether they have staff absent with long Covid or not. Given the numbers of those infected with Covid-19 over the last 24 months, it is a rather depressing but realistic expectation that the number of people struggling with long Covid going forward will only rise.
Long Covid is still not fully understood; we imagine it frustrating and worrying for those suffering from it, but how do employers deal with this situation (on top of everything else they have had to deal with over the last two years)?