As we continue through the global pandemic, more and more cases of long COVID are emerging as people struggle to recover from the virus. Research has shown that one in five people experience symptoms lasting between 5 and 12 weeks and one in ten people experience symptoms after 12 weeks or longer.
The National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) defines post-COVID syndrome or long COVID as 'signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis'.
Symptoms of long COVID are described as: fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, muscle and joint pain, problems with memory and concentration, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Dependant upon the impact of these symptoms, some employees will be considered to have a disability under the Equality Act 2021.
It is important for you to continue to engage with employees who are managing long COVID symptoms whilst at work. Follow these best practice tips to ensure you are fulfilling your legal duty of care and requirement to make reasonable adjustments for a disability:
Seek advice from Occupational Health about the impact of long COVID on the employee. Don’t assume you know how it has affected them; it will impact different people in different ways depending on a range of factors.
With medical information and advice, plan a phased return to work with the employee in advance which provides time for them to build back up to their normal working hours.
Have a risk assessment in place which identifies areas that may cause worsening of their symptoms.
Consider what modifications or adjustments can be made to support the employee and document these.
Meet with the employee regularly to monitor and review their progress, being flexible in your approach depending on their progress and needs. Long COVID is likely to be a fluctuating condition and so the employee may need different levels of support at different times.
If you would like further guidance and support with managing long COVID in the workplace, then please contact us by phone or email.