Throughout the pandemic we've been hearing more and more a condition called 'long Covid', so let's have a look at what it is and how your employer will support you if you've developed this condition following a Covid-19 infection.
What is long Covid?
Many people that contract Covid-19 symptomatically will recover in a few days or weeks - although some people can take as long as 12 weeks to fully recover. Long Covid, or post-Covid-19 syndrome (sometimes also referred to as post-viral fatigue) is the lasting symptoms that people feel or have after the infection has gone. The lasting symptoms can include:
- Brain fog or problems with memory or concentration making day-to-day life difficult.
- Fatigue and exhaustion, which may also be exacerbated by difficulty sleeping
- Joint and/or muscle pain, or pins and needles and tingling
- Reduced vision and / or hearing
- Shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness
- And many other potential symptoms
You can find more information on the long-term impacts of Covid-19 on the NHS website.
Long Covid is a disability
A TUC report in 2021 looked at worker experiences of long Covid. The research indicates that the most common symptom of long Covid experienced in fatigue, continuing for between 3-6 months. However some people have experienced upto 25 different symptoms for 12 months or more. Symptoms may vary over time and become worse some days than on others.
This research was referred to in the legal case of Burke v Turning Point Scotland which accepted that long Covid could be a disability under the definition set out in the Equality Act 2010 - i.e. a long-term condition that had a substantial impact on the ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
The bank's policy around disability has been in place for some time, and it instructs managers to treat all medical conditions which are a disability, could result in a disability, or where it is unknown whether or not it could be considered a disability. In effect, this means that business will provide reasonable adjustments to support you in returning to work (where you're currently off) or to help you remain in work.
How will my employer support me if I have long Covid?
You can expect the support of Lloyds Banking Group to help you to best manage your symptoms and your work, in the same way that you would for any other long-term medical condition. This means that adjustments should be considered, tailored to the support you need. Some examples could include:
- Adjusting your hours of work, workloads, and considering flexibility about how and when you do your work.
- Ensuring you have the correct equipment to support you, including desks, chairs and IT equipment.
- Where vision or hearing is impacted, considering assistive technology, or adapting how things are done may be of help. For example, enabling transcripts or live captions in virtual meetings can keep you engaged if you're struggling to follow what's happening, or getting software to help you find your way on your screen better.
- Occupational health referrals offer insight from medical professionals to help support you and the business in making the right decisions for you.
- Private medical insurance provided by Bupa can help you see the right medical professionals to support your recovery - and don't forget you can claim 50% of the excess you pay back through the union (eligibility criteria apply).
- The bank offer an Employee Assistance Programme run by Validium which can offer you support, guidance and access to counselling should you need it. You can also gain access to independent support through the Bank Workers Charity.
Absences for long Covid will continue to be managed under the bank's health wellbeing & attendance policy - this will involve having informal wellbeing discussions and having a wellness plan in place tailored to support you and how your condition presents itself. The business should consider carefully all circumstances and review with HR before moving to the formal part of the process.
We would expect your manager to be supporting, remembering that symptoms may vary over time and become worse some days than on others, so some times you may need more support or adjustments than others. An example of a reasonable adjustment may be to allow you to work from home (if that's possible in your role) when you're having a difficult day with your symptoms, or adjusting your working day to allow you to take extra breaks or catch up on sleep.
There is no single answer as to the adjustments that the business will support. If you need support, get in touch with us.
Sick pay & emergency response.
In March 2020, the bank introduced an emergency response which included paying full pay to anybody who was unable to work during the pandemic, no matter what. This includes all periods of isolation, sickness and long-term absences that were registered after the 27th March 2020.
This policy was revoked on the 1st November 2021. What this means in practice is that any absence that occurs after this date is recorded as normal absence and sick pay allowances start to be used. Anybody already absent on that date would see their sick pay entitlement starting to be used from that day on-wards.
For further details of sick pay allowances, visit our sick pay article.
If you need support, or you think you're being treated unfairly, contact your local Accord officer to discuss further. Feel free to chat to us through our online chat (available Monday-Thursday 8:30-17:30 & Friday 08:30-17:00), or drop us an email to [email protected].