A person has a disability under the Equality Act if they have a ‘physical or mental impairment’ which ‘has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [their] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.
Those who suffer from long-term health conditions may be ‘disabled’ in law and so protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
Fatigue, pain, headaches, breathing difficulties, muscle weakness, lasting fever, anxiety and stress are some of the reported long-term adverse effects of Coronavirus, according to individuals suffering from what is coming to be known as ‘Long Covid’ – also sometimes referred to as ‘post-Covid syndrome’ or ‘long-tail Covid’.
For employment law purposes, there are significant challenges for employers in not knowing how long the effects of Long Covid are likely to last.
Employers with staff who are suffering from Long Covid should be mindful of the possibility that they may have a disability, depending on the severity and duration of the effects. This means that treating a Long Covid sufferer less favourably because they have Long Covid or, for example, have high levels of sickness absence or are unable to fully fulfil the requirements of their role, could amount to direct disability discrimination or discrimination arising from a disability.
For employees with Long Covid, potential adjustments might, for instance, include adjusting working hours or allowing individuals to continue working from home after lockdown.
This provides summary information and comment on the subject areas covered. Where employment tribunal and appellate court cases are reported, the information does not set out all of the facts, the legal arguments presented and the judgments made in every aspect of the case. Employment law is subject to constant change either by statute or by interpretation by the courts. While every care has been taken in compiling this information, we cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Specialist legal advice must be taken on any legal issues that may arise before embarking upon any formal course of action.