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21 June, 2021 Open access

Long Covid must be urgently recognised as a disability and Covid-19 as an occupational disease

Changes are needed to give workers access to legal protections and compensation, says TUC

The TUC has called for long Covid to be urgently recognised as a disability and Covid-19 as an occupational disease.

In Workers' experiences of long Covid, the TUC analyses the results of a survey that questioned more than 3,500 workers about the impact of long Covid on their daily working life. Reporting that more than half of respondents had experienced some form of discrimination or disadvantage due to their condition, the TUC also finds that many faced disbelief and suspicion when they disclosed their symptoms which included brain fog, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating and memory problems. In particular - 

Pointing out that many who have long Covid meet the criteria of disability under section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 - a 'physical or mental impairment ... [that] ... has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [their] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities' - the TUC calls on the government to urgently recognise it as a disability to ensure that employers cannot legally discriminate against them.

In addition, with 79 per cent of respondents identifying themselves as key workers, the TUC also calls on the government to recognise Covid-19 as an occupational disease thereby entitling employees and their dependents to protection and compensation if they contracted the virus while working.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said - 

'Many of the workers who have carried us through the pandemic are now living with debilitating symptoms of long Covid. And we’re beginning to hear troubling stories of a massive wave of discrimination against people with long Covid.  

It’s time to recognise this condition properly – and make sure workers who are living with long Covid get the support they need to do their jobs.

Long Covid must be recognised as a disability. That would mean workers are protected by the Equality Act, and would have a right to get reasonable adjustments at work.

And 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.  

Employers must also act. They should make sure they make reasonable adjustments for workers with long Covid, and complete specific risk assessments to make sure workers with long Covid are safe at work.'

For more information, see TUC calls for long Covid to be urgently recognised as a disability to prevent “massive” discrimination from tuc.org.uk