Rising Discrimination in the Workplace: A Close Look at the Struggles of Long-Covid Sufferers

Long Covid is a debilitating condition that affects those who have recovered from Covid-19 but continue to experience symptoms that persist for months. For many, Long Covid has meant challenges in the workplace that result in unfair treatment and suffering, requiring support from the government, employers, and colleagues. In this report, we cover the issue of Long Covid in the workplace, highlighting the recent survey conducted by the TUC and Long Covid Support Employment Group that sheds light on the magnitude of the problem and the steps employers and governments can take to address it.

Unfair Treatment at Work

The TUC and Long Covid Support Employment Group recently conducted a survey of people with Long Covid and found that two in three of them had experienced unfair treatment at work. This unfair treatment ranges from not being actively supported in their recovery to being stigmatized and discriminated against by employers and colleagues. These results were compared to another survey conducted in 2020, which found that only half of the respondents reported unfair treatment.

The survey also revealed that Long Covid has a profound effect on how people are treated at work, with many respondents reporting that their condition affected their work performance, functionality, and social interactions. As a result, many experienced stigma and discrimination, such as being subjected to excessive absence management policies or not being given reasonable accommodations to manage their symptoms.

COVID-19 as an Occupational Disease

The survey also showed that almost half of the respondents believed they contracted Covid-19 at work. This finding has led the TUC and Long Covid Support Employment Group to strongly advocate for the recognition of Covid-19 as an occupational disease. Such recognition would provide employees with greater protection against the virus, as well as acknowledging the particular challenges workers face in the current pandemic.

Job loss due to Long Covid

Another shocking finding from the survey is that one in seven respondents lost their job due to Long Covid-related reasons. Job loss can cause significant stress and financial strain, particularly for people with a long-term illness. In addition, losing a job could mean losing workplace support, routine, and social connections, exacerbating physical and emotional symptoms of the illness.

Proposed Measures to Support Long COVID in the Workplace

To support those with Long Covid, the TUC and Long Covid Support Employment Group have called for the recognition of Long Covid as a disability under the Equality Act. This will ensure that employers are legally required to provide accommodations for those with Long Covid, which will help them manage their symptoms and remain in work.

In addition, the group is also advocating for greater job flexibility, recognizing that people with long Covid may need to adjust their working patterns or hours to accommodate their fluctuating symptoms. The TUC and Long Covid Support Employment Group also recommend that the government provide guidance to employers about how to properly support employees with long Covid and increase awareness about the condition and its impact in the workplace.

Long Covid is a debilitating and complex condition that can have a significant impact on people’s lives, particularly in the workplace. The condition can cause stigma, discrimination, and even job loss. The recent survey by the TUC and Long Covid Support Employment Group highlights the urgent need for attention from the government, employers, and colleagues to provide support to those who are struggling with the condition.

Lesley Macniven, the Chair of the COVID-19 Long-Term Health Effects Taskforce, has highlighted that “Long Covid is devastating the health of a significant percentage of our workforce, and it urgently requires a more strategic response. Employers and the government must take necessary steps to acknowledge the impact of Long Covid and protect the welfare of those who work, while supporting their long-term recovery.” With this call to action, it is now more important than ever that Long Covid is recognized as a workplace health issue, and that we work together to support employees with this condition by offering them the right support and accommodations.

Explore more