For some people, COVID-19 can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is sometimes called post-COVID-19 syndrome or “long COVID”. Common long COVID symptoms include fatigue, problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”), insomnia and depression and anxiety which can clearly have a significant impact on a sufferer’s ability to perform or even attend work.
It is estimated by the Office for National Statistics that over 1 million people have now reported experiencing long COVID. This growing impact of long COVID has prompted Acas to issue new guidance to employers and workers.
The new guidance recommends that the potential impacts of long COVID are discussed with employees as early as possible after diagnosis. Employers are encouraged to work collaboratively with employees to find ways to support sufferers. This might include offering flexible working and considering reasonable adjustments.
The guidance also states that, despite the condition affecting people in different ways, the usual rules for sickness absence and sick pay apply when someone is off work because of long COVID.
The range of ways in which sufferers can be affected, and the potential overlap with other conditions, will continue to present challenges for employers seeking to manage those affected by long COVID in their workforce. It is therefore important to keep the lines of communication open with employees who may be experiencing long COVID so that appropriate adjustments can be made (after obtaining medical advice) depending on the circumstances in any given case.