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A guide to long COVID

Community
Community
4th June 2021

In May 2021, Community members shared their experiences of long COVID. 6.2% of members said that they had experienced long COVID, and about half of this group said they were still unwell. 

Members told us symptoms included fatigue and exhaustion, breathlessness, brain fog and memory issues, headaches, muscle pains and more.  

With that in mind we are sharing some tips for what to do if you are suffering from long COVID, focussing on what this means for you at work.  

What is long COVID? 

Long covid is a condition where Coronavirus causes symptoms which last weeks or months after the infection. Sometimes this is called “post-COVID syndrome” or “Long-tail CVOID”.  

The symptoms can be serious and can mean that you may not be able to work. The effects can also come and go, meaning that you may feel well one day, and then unwell the next.  

Can I take sick leave if I have long COVID? 

Yes, you can. The normal rules for sickness absence and sick pay apply if you are off work because of long COVID.  

What should my employer be doing if I have long COVID? 

Your employer should understand that long COVID can come and go. They should provide you with support whilst you are off, and recognise that being off sick can make some people feel isolated and need support to transition back to work. 

They should agree with you how and when they will contact you during your absence and make sure your work is covered. 

When you are ready to return to work, your employer should have a conversation with you about how best to support you. This might include things like: 

  • An occupational health assessment 
  • Making “reasonable adjustments”. This means changes to the ways that you work such as different working hours, or make changes to the workplace, such as special equipment. 
  • Considering a phased return to work 

They should discuss with you whether you want to tell colleagues about your illness too.  

We know that some of our members have had issues at work due to long COVID. If you are unable to reach an understanding with your employer, know that your union are here to support you. Please get in touch with us through your local rep or our service centre.  

What happens if I struggle to do my job because of long COVID? 

If this happens, your employer should see if they can help you. For example, they could offer another occupational health assessment. 

Your employer should do everything they can before considering a capability procedure. If you were dismissed without your employer carrying out the full and fair procedure, then this could be deemed unfair dismissal by an employment tribunal. 

If this happens to you, get in touch with our team by contacting your local rep or our service centre.  

Is long COVID a disability? 

The law says that a disability is a physical or mental impairment that has a “substantial and long-term” negative effect on your ability to do normal day-to-day activities. 

Generally long-term means having lasted for at least 12 months or being likely to last for at least 12 months. Some impairments last for the rest of a person’s life, and others come and go.  

Because long COVID is a relatively new illness we don’t yet fully understand it. However, from what we’ve seen, it can affect a person’s day to day activities. For some people it comes and goes and for others it can last.  

ACAS advises employers to focus on the reasonable adjustments that they can provide people, rather than trying to weigh up whether or not a condition is a disability or not. 

If you have a disability, then there are things your employer must do to support you, including making reasonable adjustments. You can find out about these in our guide here 

Is my employer discriminating against me because I have long COVID? 

Long COVID may be considered a disability, so treating someone poorly because they have long COVID could be considered direct discrimination. As well as this, long COVID seems to affect older people, ethnic minorities, and women more severely. 

Your employer must avoid discriminating based upon protected characteristics such as age, disability, race, or sex. 

Get in touch with your local rep or our service centre for advice if you think you are facing discrimination. 

I need advice about long COVID, who can I speak to? 

If you need advice about sickness absence, discrimination or return to work, or anything else relating to long COVID, get in touch with your local rep or our service centre.  


If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at servicecentre@community-tu.org or on 0800 389 6332.

To join Community, visit www.community-tu.org/join.