With long Covid recognised as a disability in a recent employment tribunal, Professor Emma Parry from Cranfield School of Management comments on the implications for employers:
“The identification of Long Covid as a disability means employers are required to make reasonable adjustments in line with disability discrimination. However, this is made more complex by the fact that we lack a good understanding of this relatively new condition and how it might continue to affect employees. As a result, there is uncertainty about what adjustments need to be made overtime.
“In the short-term, Long Covid should be treated like any other ongoing health condition. While an organisation might want to assess whether an employee remains capable to do their job, the primary focus should be on supporting that employee so they can continue to make a contribution to the organisation while maintaining their wellbeing. Employers should undertake open honest discussions with affected employees, alongside a formal occupational health assessment to develop an action plan for their return to work. This might include a gradual or phased return, a move to part time or flexible working, a reduction in workload or the ability to pause work when needed.
“In the longer-term, communication will continue to be key to mapping the changing needs of an employee. Dealing with Long Covid requires flexibility to address its unpredictability and to allow us to develop our understanding of how it might progress. Employers should take steps to develop an organisational culture that supports this flexibility and provides the trust and psychological safety for employees to discuss their health needs on an ongoing basis.”