The long-term effects of Covid

The immediate effects of Covid-19 on employers and employees cannot be underestimated, with the worry of the pandemic, major job losses and a shift away from traditional working patterns to remote working all playing on the minds of employees.

But much is still unknown about the long-term impact for people who have had coronavirus. A significant number of people are simply not getting better, with 60,000 people in the UK thought to be experiencing so-called ‘long Covid’ – where they have symptoms and other side effects long after first contracting the virus.

Long Covid is posing a major long-term challenge for employers and employees alike, and has prompted the NHS to spend £10m on creating a network of long Covid clinics. Long Covid affects people in many ways and symptoms can vary from breathlessness and heart problems to joint and muscle pain, neurological problems such as lack of concentration, fever, exhaustion and mental health issues. Some people are unable to work with their symptoms and have mobility issues and while some people are able to go back to work some are losing their jobs as they have used up statutory sick leave.

The complexity of long Covid is a challenge for employers. The important thing is not to have a one size fits all approach to employees who are confirmed to have long Covid. Hold individual meetings with each employee to identify how it affects them and deciding on the support that is needed to ensure the employee can continue working.

Long Covid is unlikely to be classed as a disability under the Equality Act because of the Equality Act’s definition that a disability has to have a ‘long term’ negative effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities. ‘Long term’ usually means 12 months or longer. But a failure to consider how the business will deal with employees experiencing long covid may damage wider workforce relations and affect productivity.

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