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Long COVID – advice for employers and employees

Long COVID – advice for employers and employees

Sickness and absence because of long COVID

For some people, coronavirus (COVID-19) can cause symptoms that last for a long time after the infection. This is called ‘post-COVID-19 syndrome’ or ‘long COVID’.

People can experience the effects of long COVID for weeks, months and even years.

Symptoms can:

  • come and go over time
  • sometimes get better and sometimes worse

This means it can affect someone’s ability to work or cause them to take time off sick.

The usual rules for sickness absence and sick pay apply when someone is off work because of long COVID.

  • What the employer should do

Employers should be aware that the effects of long COVID can come and go. On some days the person might seem well, but on others their symptoms can be worse and they might need to be off work again.

If someone is off sick, they might feel isolated or need support to return to work. Employers should:

  • agree how and when to make contact during any absence
  • make sure their work is covered and shared out appropriately while they’re off
  • talk about ways to support them as they return to work where and when possible

When the employee feels able to return to work

The employer should talk with the employee about any support they may need. They could discuss:

  • getting an occupational health assessment
  • making changes to the workplace or to how the employee works, such as different working hours
  • a phased return to work
  • what they want to tell others at work about their illness

Example of making a change to support an employee

Some days, David has severe tiredness and body aches since having COVID-19. His doctor has diagnosed long COVID. David is ready to come back to work but is worried that working full time will be hard.

David’s employer looks at the workload and is able to allocate some work to others in the team. This means they can offer David part-time hours to start their return to work. They put in a date to review the arrangement.

If an employee is struggling to do their job

If an employer feels the employee is not able to do their work or is taking a lot of time off, they should see if they can do anything to help. For example, a further occupational health assessment to find out if more support is needed.

They should make sure they have done everything they can before considering a capability procedure. If an employer dismisses an employee without first carrying out a full and fair disciplinary or capability procedure, the employee could make a claim of unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal.

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