Fears that thousands of people are losing jobs due to long Covid

Fears that thousands of people are losing jobs due to long Covid
‘Rigid absence management policies’ written before pandemic ‘not fit for purpose,’ support group says

Thousands of people with long Covid are being fired or discriminated against at work because of their condition, campaigners believe.

Algum 405,000 individuals are suffering from symptoms that have persisted for at least a year since they were infected, de acordo com dados do Escritório de Estatísticas Nacionais.

As a result of their conditions, which can be debilitating, many have been unable to work and forced to take long-term sick leave. In some instances, people with long Covid have been sacked from their job.

A recent survey conducted by the campaign group Long Covid Support found that 5 per cent of respondents had been dismissed directly because of long Covid. Contracts were ended with no recourse or staff were fired with immediate effect, o grupo disse.

The survey of 252 ‘long-haulers’, que correu de 25 September to 3 Outubro, also found that seven per cent resigned while 45 per cent have yet to return to work, despite repeated attempts to do so. Women were disproportionately affected, the research showed.

“This is a significant loss of skilled workforce,” said Long Covid Support. “The prevalence of long Covid in women has serious and potentially long-term negative implications for gender equality in the UK labour market. It may also impact child poverty.”

Jenny Ceolta-Smith, 55, has been suffering from long Covid since March of last year and believes she was “coerced” out of her job as an occupational therapist lecturer training future NHS staff at a university in the north.

After two attempts throughout 2020 to return to work, during which time she was supported by her employer, she approached her manager and HR last February to ask for a temporary reduction in weekly hours and the option to work from home.

Management were unable to support her request to work from home, at which point Dr Ceolta-Smith reluctantly decided she would agree to leave as she was physically unable to teach on campus.

“I haven’t been paid for the last three months. I feel like I’ve been on some sort of gardening leave, nobody’s been in touch with me. It’s made me think I’ve been subjected to discrimination and unfair dismissal,” Ms Ceolta-Smith told O Independente.

“There’s this kind of coercion or really unhelpful ways of not being supportive, not offering reasonable adjustments, or not being flexible and creative. So you do feel your only option is to leave.”

A separate survey from the Trades Union Congress showed that out of 3,500 people with long Covid, just over half had experienced some form of discrimination or disadvantage in the workplace due to their condition. Around a fifth (19 por cento) said their employer had questioned the impact of their symptoms.

Lesley Macniven, who chairs an employment-focused sub-group of Long Covid Support, said that as the pandemic has extended into 2021 “we’ve seen a steady increase in posts asking for advice about employment issues.”

Ela disse O Independente: “The stories we see from group members and surveys done by the employment group and the TUC may well only scratch the surface of this issue.

“They certainly suggest that potentially thousands of people with long Covid are effectively being pushed out of employment, based on poor absence management policy, disability discrimination and or a lack of leadership as to how to support those with this new condition.”

“Evidence shows that HR and line managers often follow rigid absence management policies written pre-Covid that aren’t fit for this purpose. The consensus is now that long Covid requires a much more slow, steady increase in all aspects of activity led by the patient. Returning too quickly precipitates relapses.

“We therefore recommend that workers are given access to occupational health support to enable a sustainable return to work over a realistic time period.

“Given that roughly 80 per cent of the estimated millions with long Covid are of working age and struggling to return, successful rehab could boost an economy currently impacted by skills shortages.”

No total, more than one million people living in the UK are experiencing persistent symptoms after an infection of Covid-19, figures from the ONS shows.

In its most recent survey of private households up to 5 setembro, the ONS estimated 1.1 million people had Long Covid symptoms for more than four weeks after their infection.

Mais que 830,000 people said they still had symptoms at least 12 weeks after being infected. Of these, the ONS found 211,000 people were reporting their ability to carry out day to day activities was being “limited a lot” by their symptoms.

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