“Long COVID” is a term being used which describes the long-lasting impact that COVID-19 can have on a person. These impacts are being seen by individuals for many months after they have initially contracted the virus.
Symptoms for the affected individuals are appearing at least a month after the onset of COVID-19 and these can include extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, problems with memory and a high temperature, along with a prolonged loss of taste or smell.
The Office for National Statistics has provided recent statistics that show over 1 million people have reported that they have experienced long COVID up to March 2021.
Over 670,000 of those people have said that the long COVID symptoms were affecting their day-to-day activities. For people who are suffering from long COVID that are currently employed, employers will need to identify areas in which these workers can be supported and accommodated for.
There may be employees who will want to get back to work quickly after Covid-19 but could end up coming back too soon. This could lead to a rise in presenteeism, which could result in employees taking time off sick as their symptoms worsen. This could mean that in the longer term, businesses could start seeing rising absences which could be costly.
There is a need for employers to remain flexible with policies and adapting as the situation progresses, providing solutions such as offering phased returns to work and flexible or reduced hours, could benefit employees in their return to work particularly helping to manage symptoms such as fatigue.
The CIPD have also recommended employers consider the following options to support returning employees with long COVID symptoms:
- Getting the key principles right – Talking to employees, having a return-to-work conversation, allowing employees to take one step at a time when they do return and monitoring and reviewing the employee to ensure they are given the correct support.
- Equipping the managers to support returners and manage blended working – Training line managers in how they can prevent and reduce stress and using compassionate systems which accommodate for employees who have fluctuating conditions.
- Supporting work adjustments to enable returners to manage work and health – This could involve adapting work schedules to offer the employee more breaks, reviewing their workload, offering additional leave, or providing the worker with a buddy or a mentor.
If you have employees who are struggling and need some advice on the impact of Long Covid for employers please contact us here.