Jessica Piper, of Ashtons Legal, explains the implications for employers of Long Covid and Disability Discrimination
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence describes Long Covid as symptoms of Covid-19 continuing for more than 12 weeks from infection.
The current NHS list of Covid-19 symptoms includes, but is not limited to: extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, persistent cough, chest pain or tightness, problems with memory or concentration, a loss of or change to the senses of taste and or smell, a high temperature, headaches, sore throat and muscle or joint pain.
It is currently estimated that around two million people in the UK have had Long Covid or are currently suffering from it.
It is fair to say that a prolonged period of experiencing any or a combination of these symptoms has the potential to have a detrimental effect on an employee’s ability to work, but does Long Covid constitute a disability for discrimination purposes?
The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term detrimental effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Whether the impact of Long Covid falls under this will need to be considered on a case by case basis as each person’s experience of the symptoms will be different.
To assist employees suffering from Long Covid, employers should make reasonable adjustments to support those staff. Some examples may include taking a flexible approach to working hours and/or location, providing additional equipment, increased breaks, and if appropriate, avoiding working patterns such as early morning/late night working or back to back meetings.
Making even temporary adjustments for employees who remain unwell can help them return to work more promptly, and promote a culture of wellbeing and loyalty.
-- Jessica Piper can be contacted on 0330 404 0778 or via email@example.com