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The TUC is calling on the government to recognise long Covid as a disability and Covid-19 as an occupational disease so that workers can access legal protections and compensation.
The call builds on an in-depth report by the TUC of workers’ experiences of long Covid during the pandemic. Of the 3,500 workers who responded, it was found that:
- Nearly three in 10 (29 per cent) had experienced symptoms lasting longer than a year
- More than nine in 10 (95 per cent) had been left with ongoing symptoms
- Over half (52 per cent) had experienced some form of discrimination or disadvantage due to their condition.
Workers also told the TUC how they were faced with disbelief and suspicion when they disclosed their symptoms:
- Around a fifth (19 per cent) said their employer had questioned the impact of their symptoms
- One in eight (13 per cent) faced questions from their employer about whether they had long Covid at all
- One in 20 respondents (5 per cent) said they had been forced out of their jobs altogether because they had long Covid.
Now, the TUC is calling on the government to take action urgently in order to recognise long Covid as a disability. Under the Equality Act 2010, disability is defined as a “physical or mental impairment … [that] has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [their] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”. To satisfy the definition, the disability must have lasted at least 12 months or be likely to last that long.
The TUC says that many workers who have long Covid already meet these criteria and should be protected therefore under the law, rather than being forced to go through the stress of lodging a claim at an employment tribunal.
Extending Equality Act protections so they cover workers with long Covid would ensure that employers could not discriminate against them legally. It would also put a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments that remove, reduce or prevent any disadvantages facing workers with long Covid, as for any other enduring condition or disability.
The union body is also calling on ministers to recognise Covid-19 as an occupational disease, thereby entitling employees and their dependants to protection and compensation if they contract the virus while working.