Covid may be treated as a disability – how this could change benefits & employment rules

Long covid: Expert discusses number of people suffering in UK

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Long Covid is used to describe some of the longer-lasting symptoms which may continue or develop after a person first develops the virus. These longer term problems can create issues in a person’s life, both for their health and their ability to carry out normal activities. As a result, it has been argued the condition should be treated as a disability to provide Britons affected with the help and support they need. 

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has urged long Covid to be treated as both a disability as well as an occupational disease.

This, it says, will give workers legal protections as well as potentially compensation.

The call follows the TUC’s publication of an in-depth report on workers’ experiences of long Covid throughout the pandemic.

One woman, responding anonymously to the report, highlighted the challenges she faces while living with long Covid.

She said: “I travel by public transport four hours per day to and from work in addition to my eight hours shift.

“It is extremely difficult to focus on my job due to extreme fatigue and joint pains at work.”

With reports of workplace discrimination and challenges while carrying out work, the TUC has called upon the Government to recognise long Covid as a disability under the Equality Act. 

General Secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, commented on the matter.

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She 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.”

Ms O’Grady also called upon employers to take action when it comes to COVID-19.

She stated reasonable adjustments should be made for those with long Covid at work to help them access the workplace in an easier way.

Similarly, specific risk assessments can ensure those with long Covid are kept safe at work.

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But the idea of long Covid being classified as a disability also brings into play the idea of benefits which could be received.

The Equality Act 2010 which is cited can help Britons understand if they are disabled or not.

The definition as outlined in section six states a person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment, and if this has a “substantial and long-term adverse effect” on the ability to carry out everyday activities.

An impairment does not have to be a diagnosed medical condition either, with examples including difficulty concentrating, lack of sleep, and extreme fatigue.

Benefits such as PIP are intended to help those who have a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability.

With the amount a person receives based on how their condition affects them, rather than the condition itself, it appears there may be precedent for long Covid to be included in the future.

Britons, though, are always encouraged to seek advice if they are unsure whether they are entitled to a benefit or not. 

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