It is estimated that there are around 2 million people living in the UK, according to the Office of National Statistics.
The effects of coronavirus can last anywhere from a few weeks, months or even years. This can make working difficult when trying to manage symptoms – both physical and mental.
What is long COVID?
Long COVID is a relatively new illness and there is still no decision if it can be classed as a disability. The definition of a disability in law is ‘a physical or mental impairment that has long term and substantial effect on a person’s ability to do normal day to day activities’.
One reason it’s not yet classed as a disability could be the varying lengths of the symptoms.
Some common symptoms are:
- poor concentration
- short term memory loss
- muscle and joint pain
Studies have shown that the main groups affected with long COVID include elderly people, women and ethnic minorities.
What support should I receive from my employer if I have long COVID?
If you are affected by long COVID, you are entitled to ask for reasonable adjustments at work. Talk to your employer about your symptoms and how they are impacting you at work, to see if the workplace can accommodate your needs so you can continue to do your job.
ACAS suggests reasonable adjustments could include things such as a phased return to work, adjustments of hours, or a reduction in workload. Involving the occupational health team if your employer has one is a good idea to help make a decision of what reasonable adjustments are needed.
Because of the varying nature of long COVID symptoms, your employer should hold regular wellbeing meetings to check on how you are coping.
Am I entitled to sick pay if I have long COVID?
Your employer’s usual sickness absence policy will apply if you are unable to work due to long COVID. You could also be able to apply for statutory sick pay (SSP), if you are eligible.
You may also be eligible for other benefits, such as personal independent payment (PIP). Supporting evidence might be required when applying for benefits.
Tips for coping with long COVID
There is no single treatment for long COVID, and everyone’s experience may vary. Speak to your GP who will be able to give tips on managing your symptoms and can find out what support is available, such as rehabilitation services. There may also be long COVID clinics set up near you.
Some tips to help manage at home include:
- pace yourself and plan activities ahead
- break down jobs into smaller tasks, with plenty of rest in between
- work out the time of day when you feel most active and plan accordingly
- try to gradually increase tasks
- do gentle exercise to help ease joint pain
- connect with family and friends
- have a daily routine
- if brain fog is affecting you, make notes to help remember things
- consider a change in diet, increasing fruit and vegetable intake
- get as much sleep as possible
- try brain stimulating exercises such as puzzles or practice mindfulness
- limit alcohol use or completely cut it out
Need help with long COVID and employment? Check if you’re eligible for employment support from Work Well.