Recently published figures from Imperial College show that over 2 million people have reported suffering from long COVID symptoms, and one third of all those who contract the virus are likely to suffer symptoms for at least 12 weeks.
Following a Trades Union Congress (TUC) survey that showed half of employees dealing with Long COVID feel they have experienced discrimination at work, the TUC has called on the government to recognise Long COVID as a disability, which could significantly change employment rules and access to benefits for sufferers.
If Long COVID is officially recognised as a disability, employers will need to do more to ensure policies and safeguards are in place and workers will have more legal rights, and could potentially pursue compensation claims. Even if it is not officially recognised, the condition is highly prevalent and so employers need to plan how they handle workers suffering from it now, to ensure they stay on the right side of employment law in the future.
If your workers have been or are currently absent due to COVID or Long COVID, it is important to act now to ensure you have the right Occupational Health process in place, including clear plans on how to manage conversations with the employee while they are off, and their eventual return to work.
The first step is to engage a qualified Occupational Health specialist to perform a detailed ‘Return to Work Assessment’, based on the specific working environment and the personal circumstances of the individual.
Subsequent steps will involve a conducting a full review of potential ‘reasonable adjustments’ that could be made and ensuring clear policies are in place to govern decision making on all related aspects such as the provision of medical evidence and sick pay.
With Long COVID proving to be much more widespread and long-lasting than originally envisaged, employers need to make sure they fully understand employment law and their legal obligations on long-term sickness management and ill health retirement.
Medacs Healthcare is an SEQOHS-accredited and NHS framework-approved provider of Occupational Health services. We offer Return to Work Assessments, Specialist Medical Assessments and full Absence Management and Health Surveillance services.
Our experienced and highly qualified clinical teams can support employers to understand how they can best support staff with Long COVID while on sick leave and how they can ensure a safe return to work, advising on what adjustments could be reasonably made. Our teams are already assisting employers across a wide range of industry sectors to understand their short and long term obligations in the context of Long COVID and plan accordingly.
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