Post-Covid syndrome, or long Covid, is already having an impact on the health of thousands of people across the UK. Here, we outline the implications for small firms.
The statistics on the prevalence of post-Covid syndrome, commonly known as long Covid, are continuing to evolve, with the Office of National Statistics estimating that 300,000 people in the UK were affected at the end of January 2021. As this will inevitably increase, it’s likely to have a significant impact on small employers, small business owners and the self-employed.
What is long Covid?
Long Covid can affect anyone infected with the Covid-19 virus, regardless of whether they were critically ill or only had mild symptoms, previously clinically vulnerable or fit and healthy, young or old.
While the official definition of long Covid is symptoms continuing for 12 weeks or more following recovery from coronavirus, many people are experiencing symptoms for shorter periods. The symptoms, often occurring in clusters and fluctuating over time, include breathlessness, chronic fatigue, muscle pain and mobility problems.
I’m self-employed and suffering with long Covid. What can I do?
If you’re unable to work or are struggling with symptoms in your daily life, it can be distressing, especially if you’re working for yourself. You’re not alone – FSB Care has experience of supporting members with long Covid.
If you’re affected by long Covid, a business contingency plan should be put in place where possible.
I’m an employer. What can I do if my employee has long Covid?
Given the large numbers of people likely to be affected, together with the complexities of multiple long-term fluctuating symptoms, employee absence due to ill-health is likely to increase.
FSB Care stresses the importance of providing practical help and emotional support during this time. “This is clearly an emerging situation and one which is likely to be challenging for employers, in terms of providing support for those with this new relatively unknown condition and its long-term implications,” says Christine Husbands from FSB Care.
Depending on the severity of symptoms, employees may need to take time off work as long-term sick leave. Alternatively, employees who are well enough to return to work in some capacity may require temporary adjustments to their work role, working hours or place of work (such as incorporating periods of home working).
“Adjustments to the employee’s work or work pattern may be required from a practical viewpoint and under health and safety legislation to help employees manage the impact of the varying physical and/or mental symptoms of long Covid on their work life,” says Hannah Thomas from FSB Employment Protection.
Where long Covid symptoms are variable and fluctuating, any required adjustments will need to be tailored to the employee’s needs at that time and on a case-by-case basis, with the flexibility to adapt as necessary where the employee experiences relapses or improvements and by keeping the agreed adjustments under review.
Where can I find more support?
FSB Care is free of charge to FSB members and can be extended to an employee for a fixed fee. FSB Care’s registered nurses have many years’ experience in supporting people with long-term chronic conditions.
FSB members also have access to the FSB Legal Hub, which contains template documents and guidance on managing employees’ ill-health and sick pay entitlements, as well as the 24/7 legal and HR advice line, staffed by qualified lawyers.