Are employees diagnosed with ‘long COVID’ to be classed as disabled for employment law purposes?
An article has been published today by the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) on how more employers are having to assess if a diagnosis of the ‘Long COVID’ condition is to be classed as a disability for legal purposes. There is growing evidence that more people are having to deal with chronic health issues after their initial symptoms have disappeared.
Recent research by King’s College London suggests ‘Long COVID’ is more common among the working age population, with 10% of 18–49-year-olds who were unwell with COVID-19 being affected. Women are 50% more likely to suffer from long COVID than men (14.5% compared with 9.5%). And there are instances of infected people who were asymptomatic getting long COVID too.
Employers need to educate their workforce to recognise early signs of ‘Long COVID’
Michelle Chance, Employment Partner at City Law Firm, Rosenblatt Limited ADVISES: “With the establishment of long COVID clinics throughout the UK and GPs becoming better-trained in recognising this condition, we are likely to see far more clinical diagnoses of long COVID and related Employment Tribunal claims in the future. Employers should therefore educate their workforce and particularly those with managerial responsibilities about recognising the signs and symptoms of long COVID early. These can include breathlessness, heart palpitations or rapid heartbeat, lung damage, joint and muscle pain, fever, fatigue/exhaustion, insomnia, headaches, loss of taste and smell, and a lack of concentration (brain fog), as well as mental health issues including anxiety and depression.”
Under the 2010 Equality Act, disability is classed as a “physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities”. Tom Neil, Acas Senior Adviser states “Long-COVID appears to manifest itself in a range of different conditions in different people, and in some situations, it is possible it could fall under the definition of a disability in the Equality Act 2010. However, whether it amounts to a disability or not, it makes sense for managers to consider what they can do to support a team member carry out their job. Acas would encourage employers and their staff to work together to consider if there are any changes or adjustments to work that may be appropriate and reasonable, which would enable the employee to continue working.”
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