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Long Covid means absence management policies must be changed says Usdaw

Date: 01 May 2022 Delegates at Usdaw’s annual conference in Blackpool have today backed a call for company absence management policies to be amended to support employees with long Covid, so they are not pressurised to return to work before they are fully recovered.
Speaking at the 75th Annual Delegate Meeting, Dave McCrossen – Usdaw Deputy General Secretary said: “Long Covid is condition that is simply not taken seriously enough. Some people with Covid-19 have symptoms that last for weeks, months and sometimes even years after their initial infection. The Office of National Statistics found that 1.3 million people are now living with what is described as long Covid.
 
“Long Covid has yet to receive a full, internationally-agreed definition, it affects people in many different ways. There have been some reports of a persistent brain fog that makes it hard to concentrate. A shortness of breath and fatigue which can make the simplest of everyday tasks a very real struggle. There have even been reports of symptoms that go far beyond the common symptoms of Covid, such as stomach problems, insomnia and vision changes. Any of these symptoms of long Covid will make work more difficult.
 
“For Usdaw members, trying to do their jobs whilst managing these symptoms, it could be near impossible. The sectors our members work in can be physically and mentally demanding. A customer service assistant will often be on their feet all day, leaning over tills to scan heavy items, kneeling down to stack shelves, bending down to change labels, or kneeling to clear up spills. Warehouse operatives are lifting and moving heavy cargo all day, running up and down large warehouses to collect stock. Drivers have to concentrate for long hours of the day on journeys which will cause fatigue.
 
“It is not surprising many workers living with long Covid are forced to take time off work. A quarter of UK employers say long Covid is now one of the main causes of long-term sickness absence among their staff, yet we are now told that we need to live with Covid. But how is this possible if workers living with long Covid are not being supported?
 
“I'm sure many workers have felt pressured to go into work despite their symptoms, as they could be facing disciplinary action due to another absence.  It's true that we may not be able to fully understand or define this illness yet, but that doesn't mean workers' health concerns should be ignored.
 
“Usdaw members have worked hard during the pandemic, frequently putting their own health at risk to keep the country going. Those who have been left with long Covid deserve better. They have every right to expect support from their employer. So it is not unreasonable to expect that absence policies should be reviewed in line with this.”
 
Notes for editors:
 
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with around 360,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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