Long COVID and The Impact for Businesses and Managers – Compass Skills Training

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By Debbie Williams, CMIOSH PgDip, Director and Occupational Health Manager at Compass

5-10% of people who suffered from COVID-19 are expected to develop the symptoms of “Long COVID”, with the main symptom being fatigue. But with the possibility of other severe symptoms (such as organ damage), how can employers support people to return to work?

 

What is “Long COVID”?

“Long COVID” is a term which is used after four weeks if symptoms continue and prevent a person from doing normal activities. The Office for National Statistics estimates that one in five people have symptoms after five weeks, and one in ten have symptoms for twelve weeks or longer after an acute COVID-19 infection. An Independent SAGE Report on Long COVID was published in January 2021 and further sets out the symptoms, prevalence, and management of the condition. This report can be viewed here.

It should be noted that although recovery from COVID-19 can be slow, many people improve with time, and treatments are improving as more is known. Returning to work is part of the recovery, even if it must be flexible or on a phased return at first.

 

What Should Employers and Managers Do?

When an employee comes back to work after being off sick, the manager should hold a meeting with the individual before returning to work to talk about the return-to-work process and ask how they can support the individual. Once they are back at work, the manager should arrange a review with the employee. Workloads may also need to be reviewed to ensure the individual is not under excessive pressure. Human Resource partners or Union Representatives may also need to be involved in the process.

If the work involves heavy lifting or other exertion, medical clearance may be needed before returning to work, and there may be other health checks required for safety critical workers. If the individual has any pre-existing health conditions that have been aggravated by COVID-19, any previous work restrictions should be reviewed.

Adjustments to work duties, known as ‘reasonable adjustments’, may also be needed.

 

What are ‘Reasonable Adjustments’?

Adjustments should be tailored to the employee as an individual, and be based on their job role, their health problems, and how their ability to function is affected.

Some of the following may seem obvious, but it is useful to formalise these to ensure that they happen:

 

How can Occupational Health Services help Businesses?

Occupational Health Practitioners are experts in maintaining health at work and can reduce the burden on employers by helping businesses maintain a healthy workforce. Compass Occupational Health Services recognise that duration of Long COVID illness can be prolonged, and that early return can cause relapse. We can help in the following ways:

If you would like more information on how Compass can support you and your business please telephone 0333 3580340, or email info@compass-ms.co.uk