Tribunal defines Long Covid as a disability – what does this mean for employees and employers?

Tribunal defines Long Covid as a disability – what does this mean for employees and employers?

What is adisability?

The Equality Act 2010defines someone as having a disability if they have a physical or mentalimpairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on theirability to carry out normal daily activities.

What is longCovid?

The NHS has advised that most people will make a fullrecovery from Covid-19 within 12 weeks of having it. However, for some people,the symptoms may last longer and result in developing a condition known as longCovid.

Common long Covid symptoms include fatigue, shortness ofbreath, joint pain, headaches, depression and anxiety, to name a few.

Tribunal ruling

Mr Terence Burke was signed off work as a charitycaretaker in November 2020 further to contracting Covid. Although he onlysuffered mild symptoms, it did not take long until he was unable to carry outsimple household tasks.

Nine months later, Mr Burke was yet to return to work dueto the symptoms he was suffering. This resulted in his employer dismissing himon the grounds of his ill-health.

The tribunal heard that the level of fatigue Mr Burke wassuffering could wipe him out. His sleep remained disturbed, but he struggledwith concentration, and was alsoexperiencing ongoing joint pain. This impacted Mr Burke’s ability to continuewith daily activities, such as household chores, self-care and shopping.

It was therefore held that long Covid had a “substantialand long-term adverse effect” on his ability to carry out normal day to dayactivities. Mr Burke’s case has set a landmark precedent defining long Covid asa disability, under the Equality Act 2010.

Mr Burke was therefore given permission to bring a case ofdisability discrimination against his former employer.

If you have an employee suffering from long-covid, we urgeyou to contact our Employment Team to discuss possible reasonable adjustmentsthat you should consider, and how to lawfully manage their absence and itsimpact on your business.

Snowball effect of this ruling

This ruling could now lead to a significant rise inclaims, given that it is thought nearly two million people in the UK aresuffering with long Covid.

Many employees may seek to rely upon the precedent now setin this case and bring claims against their own employers if they, too, havesuffered similar circumstances.

Please contact us for advice if you are suffering fromlong-covid and feel that you have suffered from discrimination.

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