As Long-Covid becomes more of an issue, ACAS has provided advice to organisations on the steps they should take to support staff in this situation.
The disease Covid-19 can cause symptoms for some people that can last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is now widely known as Long-Covid and, according to ACAS, it is having an impact on businesses as affected workers try to get back to work.
Given that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has estimated that over one million people have reported experiencing Long-Covid, the conciliation and mediation service has decided to issue an advice note.
This highlights that the symptoms are many and varied and include:
- extreme tiredness
- shortness of breath
- chest pain or tightness
- problems with memory and concentration (‘brain fog’)
- difficulty sleeping
- heart palpitations
- pins and needles
- joint pain.
Other patients have reported:
- depression and anxiety
- feeling sick
- stomach aches
- loss of appetite
- a high temperature
- sore throat
- changes to sense of smell or taste
The advice note offers practical tips for organisations to manage the various effects of the condition in a sensitive way as well a range of options that can help staff get back to work safely.
It suggests that organisations should:
- arrange and offer occupational health assessments
- look into reasonable adjustments, which can vary from changed hours, to adapted physical workspaces, and
- discuss flexible working as an option as well as phased returns, which may mean coming back part-time initially to build back up to working usual hours.
The guidance advises organisations not to focus on whether Long-Covid should be considered a disability, but instead what adjustments they can make to combat the symptoms and help staff return to work. To this end, it also cautions against capability procedures until all other options have been considered.
As Long-Covid is a new illness, ACAS is also hesitant as to state whether it will be considered a disability going forward. However, it may lead to conditions that do fall into this category and organisations should be mindful of this, alongside the danger of discrimination.
Finally, the guidance states that certain groups in particular are suffering from Long-Covid, including those who are older, from ethnic minority backgrounds or women, and poor treatment of them in this regard could also lead to claims of discrimination.
- Managing coronavirus issues at work: overview and in depth
- In-depth employment law sections on discrimination
- Managing capability at work checklist
- Making reasonable adjustments checklist