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Long Covid – support at work

Last Updated: 14 April

For some people, Coronavirus (Covid-19) can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is sometimes called Post-Covid-19 syndrome or "Long Covid".

About Long Covid

How long it takes to recover from Coronavirus is different for everybody.

Many people feel better in a few days or weeks and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks. But for some people, symptoms can last much longer.

The chances of developing long-term symptoms doesn’t seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get Coronavirus.

People who had mild symptoms at first can still develop long-term problems.

Members with ‘Long Covid’ may need the support of their Union. They may have poor attendance or performance and this may lead to them being disciplined under capability procedures or absence management policies. They may also find that aspects of their job make their condition worse.

Usdaw would expect employers to act sympathetically around any absences related to Long Covid, and that those with Long Covid should be paid in line with their usual sick pay entitlement.

The Equality Act 2010 (or Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland)

Some members who have lived with Long Covid for more than 12 months or the symptoms they are experiencing are likely to last for more than 12 months may have extra protections under the disability provisions of the Equality Act 2010 or for members living in Northern Ireland under the Disability Discrimination Act.

If you can show that the member meets the definition of a disabled person outlined in the Equality Act (or the DDA in Northern Ireland), you will be able to make a strong case that they should be supported at work by reasonable adjustments.

When deciding if a member is covered by the Equality Act (or DDA in Northern Ireland), ask five questions:

1. Does the member have a physical or mental impairment?
Long Covid is clearly a physical impairment and may well be a mental impairment too so members with Long Covid would normally meet this part of the definition.

2. Is it more than a trivial condition?
Most but not all members with Long Covid will probably find that it does have a significant impact on their life. You have to show that the impact on the member’s life is more than minor.   

3. Has the condition lasted or is it likely to last for more than a year?
Much is still unknown about why people develop Long Covid and how long it might take them to fully recover so this might be a stumbling block for many members with Long Covid. However, the member doesn’t have to have experienced symptoms for 12 months or more before seeking help at work from their manager. Remember a member may fit the definition of a disabled person under the Equality Act (or DDA in Northern Ireland) if their symptoms are likely to last for more than 12 months.

Nor does the member have to be experiencing constant symptoms as conditions with symptoms that come and go can be counted. You might want to suggest that the member try to get some medical evidence saying that their symptoms have lasted or are likely to last for more than 12 months.

4. What would happen if they stopped taking their medication?
Employers sometimes argue that the member is not disabled because their condition is controlled by medication. However in deciding whether or not someone is disabled they must be assessed as if they were not taking their medication. 

5. Does the condition affect their everyday life?
If you can show that the members Long Covid has a substantial effect on how they carry out normal day to day life then they may be covered.

If pain, fatigue, breathlessness, anxiety or depression for example are affecting a member’s ability to do every day tasks like get up in the morning, get dressed, concentrate, remember things, interact with other people, lift or carry for example then they are likely to be able to show that they meet this part of the definition.

If you can show that the member meets all of the above criteria then they will be entitled to the protection of the Equality Act/DDA and have the right to reasonable adjustments at work. 

To find out more about the rights disabled members have at work see leaflets Reasonable Adjustments and Supporting Disabled Members.

If you require support in discussions with your employer, please contact your Area Organiser or the Equalities Section by calling 0161 224 2804.

The NHS has now launched the Your Covid Recovery service for those recovering from Coronavirus, accessible here.

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