Long Covid in the Workplace


Due to the unknown nature of the illness, Long Covid can be a complicated issue for employers.

While most individuals who contract Covid-19 make a full recovery within a week or so, for others the symptoms can persist for an extended period of time after the initial infection. This condition is called Long Covid and those unfortunate enough to get it can experience its debilitating effects for weeks, months and even years.

Reported symptoms include extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches, heart palpitations and muscle aches, as well as problems with memory and concentration (brain fog).

What’s more, it appears that these symptoms can fluctuate over a period of time between bouts of feeling better and then relapsing. As a relatively new condition it’s fair to say that the full complexities of Long Covid are not yet fully understood by medical experts.

Establish Procedures

Ultimately, these grey areas could have implications for employers. In the current environment, the usual rules for sickness absence and pay apply when someone is off work because of Long Covid. For large corporations and small business owners alike, this means it is important to establish processes to support employees who are suffering from Long Covid.

In the first instance, it is a good idea to keep in regular contact with employees who are absent to talk about ways to support them when they feel able to return to work. Conversations should cover making reasonable adjustments to the workplace or to how the employee works. For example, considering the possibility of working from home or altering existing working hours. Discussions should also touch upon a phased return to work and even the possibility of an assessment from occupational health.

If the employee is still not able to do their work or is taking a lot of absence, then the first step should always be to see if there is any additional support that can be put in place to help. Employers should ensure they have done everything they can before resorting to a capability procedure.

Rapid Change

However, as we have already mentioned, the relative newness of this illness means that the employment landscape with regard to Long Covid is rapidly changing. In June of this year, an employment tribunal ruled that an individual suffering from the illness could be considered as ‘disabled’ and therefore bring a disability discrimination claim against his former employer.

The Equality Act 2010 determines if a condition, such as Long Covid, is a protected disability using the following three considerations: there must be a physical or mental impairment; the disability lasts for longer than 12 months; the disability causes a substantial impact on day-to-day activities. While not everyone’s experience of Long Covid will qualify them as disabled under these circumstances, there’s no doubt that some will.

All of which, again, means that employers need to not only be aware of the legal rights of any employee suffering from Long Covid, but also need establish a rigorous approach that works for them. Undoubtedly, with the current speed of change, keeping abreast of the inevitable developments concerning employee rights in relation to Long Covid in the workplace is vital.

For update to date guidance and advice on how to support an employee suffering from Long Covid or assistance to prepare and implement a Long Covid policy in your workplace please get in contact with our Employment & HR team on 01225 750000 or email sean.mcdonough@mogersdrewett.com. We are here to help.

Mogers Drewett

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