Call for Covid-19 to be recognised as an occupational disease

24 June 2021

In order to give workers access to legal protections and compensation, the TUC is calling for long Covid to be recognised as a disability and Covid-19 as an occupational disease.

It has backed up the recommendation with a report on workers’ experiences of long Covid during the pandemic.

The report, which can be found on the TUC website, is based on the responses of more than 3500 workers to a TUC survey on the impact of long Covid on people’s daily working lives.

This found that 29% had experienced symptoms lasting longer than a year, 95% have been left with ongoing symptoms and more than half (52%) had experienced some form of discrimination or disadvantage due to their condition.

More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents were women and 79% of those who responded identified themselves as key workers, with the majority working in either education or health and social care.

The TUC points out that many who have long Covid already meet the criteria for disability set out in the Equality Act 2010 and should therefore be protected under the law rather than forced to go through the stress of employment tribunals.

General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Long Covid must be recognised as a disability. That would mean workers are protected by the Equality Act, and would have a right to get reasonable adjustments at work. And Covid-19 should be designated as an occupational disease. That would allow workers who contracted Covid-19 at work and are living with the consequences to claim the compensation they are due”.

The TUC has highlighted how respondents to the survey claimed to have faced disbelief and suspicion when they disclosed their symptoms:

  • 19% said their employer had questioned the impact of their symptoms

  • 13% faced questions from their employer about whether they had long Covid at all

  • 5% said they had been forced out of their jobs altogether because they had long Covid.