Dealing with long COVID absences

Lady lying on a hospital bed

You may have some staff absences with Covid-related illnesses. What are your obligations if an employee is suffering with long Covid?

According to the NHS, around 60,000 are still experiencing symptoms and side effects, long after they originally contracted coronavirus.

We suggest that you consider what reasonable adjustments and additional support your employee may need to resume their work. Also, don’t forget to stay in regular contact while they’re off sick.

Will you have to keep paying them for work they can’t do? The short answer is no; standard SSP rules apply for up to 28 weeks. You can then ask for an independent occupational health referral, and if necessary, invoke your capability procedure.

However, there’s one important point to keep in mind as events progress. Currently, “long Covid” is classed as a medical condition rather than a disability. However, we think there’s a possibility of future re-classification if chronic symptoms continue for 12 months or more.

Current projections are that the condition will be treated in much the same way as ME or chronic fatigue syndrome. This is because the impact of symptoms (rather than long Covid itself) will determine its individual classification as a disability.

Our advice in summary? We recommend that you follow standard procedure for now, but keep a close eye on the latest developments. If you need help managing staff absences, get in touch for some advice.