Last reviewed 13 May 2022
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has responded to discussion of the various symptoms related to Covid-19 that are often referred to as “Long Covid” and, in particular, whether they would constitute a disability under the Equality Act.
“Given that Long Covid is not among the conditions listed in the Equality Act as ones which are automatically a disability, such as cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis, we cannot say that all cases of Long Covid will fall under the definition of disability in the Equality Act”, the EHRC said.
However, it goes on to clarify that this does not affect whether Long Covid might amount to a disability for any particular individual; it will do so if it has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Whether or not this is the case will be determined by the employment tribunal or court considering any claim of disability discrimination, the Commission explains.
It concludes: “To support workers affected by Long Covid and avoid the risk of inadvertent discrimination, we would recommend that employers continue to follow existing guidance when considering reasonable adjustments for disabled people and access to flexible working, based on the circumstances of individual cases.”
Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula
As with any long-term absence, employers should ensure they are conducting regular welfare meetings with affected staff members and reviewing the support measures which could be implemented to assist them in the workplace.
Employers should also keep in mind that Long Covid will affect each individual differently, so adjustments must be personalised to each employee, in line with their specific needs.
Adopting a one-size-fits-all approach in this situation would prove ineffective for both the employee and employer.