And whilst businesses are concerned with protecting individuals from COVID they also need to consider protecting those ‘with’ COVID too,
The ONS reported that over a 4 week period ending March 6th an estimated 1.1 people in the UK confirmed they were experiencing long COVID and now with restrictions set to end those people are returning to the office, to the shops, bars, hospitals, clinics and other establishments to continue their daily work.
Recent guidance still leads with work from home but The ONS also tells us that long COVID cases were greatest in people aged 35 – 69, those living in the most deprived areas and crucially for the ‘work from home’ guidance those working in health or social care – making it reasonable to say that ‘working from home probably isn’t an option all of the time.
So how can employers ensure these people feel safe to come back to work?
- Find out how staff feel about returning to work, listen and support and explore options for a safe return
- Include the person who is responsible for day to day safety of the worker as well as a decision-maker in the process
- Focus on ability, not inability, taking into account the impact and duration of the activities required for the role.
- Pay particular attention to roles that involve safety-critical tasks and where lapses in energy or concentration can be fatal.
- Give less physically and emotionally demanding jobs
- Consider shorter or more flexible hours
- Consider return to work on a phased return basis
- Provide ongoing mental health support
- Update your risk assessment – if you have a worker with long COVID it definitely needs to be included here.
Symptoms of long COVID include affecting functionality, brain fog and chest pain and the impact on the workforce remain to be seen. It is still unclear how long it takes individuals to fully recover and how sufferers can be successfully integrated back into the workplace. In the first instance, an occupational health expert will be best placed to advise on a return to work assessment.
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