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Long Covid sufferers ‘treated unfairly at work’

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Two in three people with Long Covid questioned by a union body reported receiving unfair treatment at work, with one in seven losing their jobs because of the condition.

More than 3,000 people with Long Covid responded to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Long Covid Support Employment Group survey. The group has called on ministers to ensure everyone with Long Covid is protected by law.

The report found that many people with Long Covid say the condition has had an impact on how they are treated at work. Almost a quarter (23%) of respondents said their employer had questioned whether they have Long Covid or the impact of their symptoms.

One in seven (14%) claimed they had lost their job due to reasons connected to Long Covid – nearly triple the percentage (5%) of people who said that in 2021. Nearly three in 10 (28%) said they are concerned Long Covid had affected their chances of a promotion at work. About one in six (16%) of those with Long Covid reported experiencing bullying and harassment at work.

The TUC looked at the difficulties working people with Long Covid are facing accessing the support they need to be able to return to work and carry on working if they wish to.

Almost half (48%) said they were not given any or all of the reasonable adjustments – like flexibility to manage fluctuating symptoms or longer or more frequent breaks – that they needed to come back to work.

Half (50%) reported not being given any or all of the reasonable adjustments required – such as permanent home working or physical changes to the workplace – to manage their job.

Half of Long Covid sufferers using savings to survive

The TUC also looked at the financial impact on workers experiencing Long Covid. It found that one in two (50%) of those who responded to the survey were having to use their savings to support themselves. About one in 16 (6%) said they had taken out a loan or used a debt service. The same proportion (6%) said they had used food banks.

The TUC and Long Covid Support Employment Group is calling for the government to ensure everyone with Long Covid is recognised as disabled under the Equality Act.

Many people with Long Covid will already get the protections under the act but the TUC said that extending Equality Act 2010 protections would ensure everyone is protected by law.

The union also urged ministers to recognise Covid-19 as an occupational disease. This would entitle employees and their dependents to protection and compensation if they contracted the virus while working.

‘Employers must play their part’

Paul Nowak, TUC general secretary, said: “Workers with Long Covid have been badly let down. Many of these are the key workers who carried us through the pandemic – yet now some are being forced out of their jobs and too many are relying on food banks just to get by.

“Ministers must make sure all workers with Long Covid have the legal right to reasonable adjustments at work so they can stay in their jobs.

“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.

“And employers must play their part, by making sure their staff with Long Covid get the reasonable adjustments they need. That is how we make sure workers with Long Covid can manage their condition and stay in the workplace.”