Long-Covid: Report calls for better protection for those suffering in the UK
27 April 2023 | Applicable law: England and Wales | 3 minute read
A report, co-written by the TUC and the charity Long Covid Support, published on 27 March 2023, charts the continued difficulties faced by employees with long-Covid. The report appeared on the third anniversary of the first lockdown in the UK and is a reminder of the ongoing predicament of a significant number of individuals. It recommends that long-Covid is formally designated as a disability and that Covid-19 is recognised as an occupational disease.
The research was conducted using an online survey to better understand the experiences of workers who have, or have had, ongoing symptoms after having Covid-19. Over 3,000 people participated and the survey results revealed that:
- 23% of respondents say their employer has questioned whether they have long-Covid or questioned the impact of their symptoms.
- 14% say they lost their job because of reasons connected to long-Covid – nearly triple the percentage (5%) of people who said that in 2021.
- 28% say they are concerned long-Covid has affected their chances of a promotion at work.
- 16% report experiencing bullying and harassment at work.
- 48% say they were not given any or all of the reasonable adjustments – such as flexibility to manage fluctuating symptoms or longer or more frequent breaks – that they needed to return to work.
- 50% report not being given any or all of the reasonable adjustments required to manage their work such as permanent home working or physical changes to the workplace.
- 49% believe they contracted Covid-19 at work.
- 12% have not disclosed their long-Covid to their manager for fear of how they might be perceived.
- 50% are experiencing adverse financial consequences and are having to use their savings to support themselves with 6% resorting to private loans and 6% needing to use food banks.
Although the Burke case means that some employees with long-Covid could already meet the definition of a disability, the report argues that the challenges faced in getting support at work means clear guidance from the government is needed.
As well as designating long-Covid as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, the report recommends that the government makes sure that those experiencing long-Covid are entitled to reasonable adjustments at work, such as flexible working, disability leave and a phased return to the workplace.
It also suggests that Covid-19 should be classified as an occupational disease so that workers who contracted it through their job are able to seek compensation if they contract the virus whilst at work.
Employers in any event need to proceed cautiously when managing staff whom they know or suspect to have long Covid. Our article of 8 September 2022 gives more detail on why this is the case.