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1st March 2023

Long Covid – What are the H&S Implications?

woman putting on a face mask


A recent employment tribunal has concluded that an employee’s long covid symptoms amounted to a disability. What factors were taken into account, and what are the health and safety implications of this ruling?

What’s Happened?

The employee of a homeless person’s charity had been employed as a caretaker for over 20 years when he was unfortunately struck down with Covid-19 back in November 2020. As a result, he has suffered long-term problems with his health including headaches, joint pain, loss of sleep, tiredness and poor concentration.

The employee provided his employer with sick notes from his GP detailing his symptoms. The company subsequently arranged for the employee to be assessed by an Occupational Health Specialist who (following assessment) advised that he could return to work in April 2021.

Although the Occupational Health assessment indicated the employee could return to work, the employee did not actually do so, and he remained absent. By August 2021 the employer saw no reasonable prospect of the employee returning to work and so they took the decision to dismiss him.

In Court

The employee took his case to an employment tribunal seeking to provide that due to his illness, he was in fact ‘disabled’ and defined under the Equality Act 2010.

The court heard evidence that the employees condition caused a mental and physical impairment which has a substantial long-term adverse effect on his ability to undertake day to day activities.

The court ruled in the employee’s favour.

H&S Implications

Employers have general duties for employee’s health, safety and welfare under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Its clear that someone with a personal medical issue such as long covid could be at greater risk of accident within the workplace due to their poor concentration or short term memory. Its therefore recommended that anyone with a medical issue be subject to a specific individual risk assessment in order to identify any particular aspects of the role which may need reasonable adjustments to be made.

If the situation is complex, then its always best to enlist the assistance of an Occupational Health Specialist to assist in undertaking the assessment – Lighthouse have links with such organisations and so can assist clients in this regard.

If you have any queries regarding this blog or any other H&S issue, then do not hesitate to call our adviceline today on 0300 303 5228.

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