What happens if you are suffering from long-Covid and what can be done to help you to return to work?
For almost two years’ the world has lived with COVID-19 and most people will have experienced the effect it has had on our lives in one way or another. The impact could be seen in your employment, social life or personal health. This blog looks at the impact COVID-19 (and in particular, long-COVID) has had on individuals’ physical or mental health. Unfortunately, for certain individuals, they can experience long-lasting physical effects of having been infected by COVID-19. This is commonly referred to, in the press, as long-COVID or long-tail COVID.
It is now known that for some individuals they can experience symptoms of COVID-19 for months after the infection. However, it is not yet understood why some individuals experience longer symptoms, nor is it known when or if these symptoms will ultimately pass or not. The symptoms also vary for everyone. For one individual they may experience breathlessness, or organ damage. Whereas another individual may experience depression or memory loss.
It is therefore, understandably, a worrying time for individuals with long-COVID and if those individuals are employed, it can impact their ability to work and result in sickness absence.
What Happens If You Cannot Work Due To Long-COVID?
There has been recent guidance from ACAS on how employers should be aware of the effects of long-COVID. The guidance recommends when an employee is on sickness absence, the employer should support them and support the employee’s return to work for when they are ready. It would therefore be reasonable for an employer to: –
- Keep in contact with the employee whilst they are on sick leave and see how they are.
- Make sure their work is appropriately covered whilst they are absent.
- Have discussions with the employee to understand how they will support them when they return to work.
What Happens If You Can’t Return To Work Imminently?
In this circumstance, it would be reasonable to speak to your employer about any support you need. It may be a good idea for the following to be discussed: –
- Your employer may wish to obtain an Occupational Health Report to assess when, how and what they can do to help you return to work.
- By speaking together, you and your employer may be able to agree changes to the workplace to help you return sooner, i.e., reducing your hours.
- You could look to return, initially, on a phased return.
Can Long-COVID Be A Qualifying Disability?
If you have experienced long-COVID for some time, your symptoms are impacting you significantly and you do not know when or if they will improve, you may meet the definition of a disabled person for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.
The TUC has recently called for long-COVID to be recognised as a disability. In accordance with the Equality Act 2010, a disability is defined as being “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial, long-term (no less than 12 months or expected to last no less than 12 months) and adverse effect on that individual’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” In respect to this definition, what is not yet known is whether the condition is likely to last for at least 12 months and therefore be defined ‘long-term’. Consequently, there is confusion amongst employers currently on how to manage long-term sickness absence or how to help the employee return to work through adjustments.
I would therefore advise employers to err on the side of caution and discuss what, if any, reasonable adjustments can be put in place at work to help their employee/s return to work.
How Can We Help You?
If you have any employment law issue, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our specialist employment law solicitors. You can telephone us on 01522 440512, or email ContactUs@lincslaw.com and we will get back in touch with you. If you would like to know more about what a reasonable adjustment is, please follow our link here; https://lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/workplace-problems/disability-discrimination/