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While not formally recognised as a disability, the effect long Covid may have on a person's ability to work may mean it should be considered as such. Hollie Ryan looks at the support employers may need to offer staff with persistent symptoms to avoid legal claims.
While most people have heard of long Covid, it is a new illness that isn’t fully understood and can impact an employee’s ability to work or result in long periods of absence.
Employers will need to manage long Covid-related symptoms and absences carefully, as employees with the condition could be considered to be disabled and will be protected under disability discrimination legislation.
What is long Covid?
Most individuals experience mild cases of Covid-19 and can usually expect to recover in a couple of weeks. However, some people have reported that their symptoms have persisted for weeks or even months after their initial infection. This is sometimes called post-Covid-19 syndrome or, more generally, long Covid.
Symptoms are wide ranging, but commonly include fatigue, breathlessness, chest pain and problems with memory and concentration or "brain fog". This list is not exhaustive and individuals can experience one or more symptoms. Recent ONS statistics confirm that, of the almost one million individuals reported to be living in the UK with long Covid at the beginning of August 2021, 84% first had (or believed they had) Covid-19 at least 12 weeks previously and, for as many as 40%, one year previously.