Long Covid may need to be treated as a disability, lawyer warns

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Organisations may need to consider treating those with ‘long Covid’ as if they have a disability in order to avoid falling into legal hot water, an employment lawyer has warned.

Ella Bond, a senior solicitor at Harper James Solicitors, said organisations need to be ready for the impact long Covid will have on both their employees and their business, as many are likely to feel the long-term effects of the virus.

Some cases of long Covid may meet the definition of a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

Employers should treat employees with long Covid symptoms like they would anybody else with a health condition, by assessing its impact and making adjustments on a case-by-case basis.

Bond said: “While it is still too early to gauge how long some employees may suffer from the illness, employers should keep in mind that it is possible long Covid could meet the definition of being a disability.

“This will depend on its severity, effects and how long a medical practitioner assesses that it has or could last for. In addition, the impact of the illness could exacerbate other conditions or lead to mental health issues such as depression or PTSD. These factors should be kept front and centre of an employer’s mind when dealing with the issue.

“All employers will need to be careful not to fall foul of discrimination legislation as they manage the impact of long Covid in their business.”

Symptoms of long Covid can include breathlessness, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, cognitive dysfunction and organ abnormalities, studies have shown.

It has been estimated that up to a million people will require treatment for long Covid, which will place significant strain on an already stretched NHS.

Earlier this year, Patient-Led Research for Covid-19, a group of researchers who are also long Covid sufferers, reported that 65% people still had symptoms of the coronavirus at least six months after infection, while 22% had to stop working because of their health.

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