A local HR consultancy has warned that recent UK employment tribunal cases highlight a growing issue with how employers are managing staff with Long Covid.
HR Now is advising businesses to consider how they are dealing with disability, and in particular Long Covid, when managing staff absences.
A recent employment tribunal, Burke v Turning Point Scotland, saw a case which required an evaluation of Long Covid as a potential disability protected by legislation. While the case for unfair dismissal and discrimination hasn’t been fully resolved, the Judge has ruled in a preliminary hearing, that Long Covid can be defined as a disability.
Tony Riley (pictured), Senior HR Consultant at HR Now said: “While UK employment law developments are not binding here, they do often have an eventual impact and so employers should be aware of these potential problem areas to prevent themselves from ending up in dispute with employees. In particular they should take note of the classification of Long Covid as a disability.
“The Burke v Turning Point tribunal found that research suggests Long Covid can last from three months to 12 months plus. In Jersey, if the duration is ‘likely’ to be six months or more, the claimant would almost certainly be considered to be disabled.”
The other recent tribunal, Mckenzie v University Hospitals of Leceister NHS Trust, related to how the Trust interpreted its sickness absence and capability policies. The Judge in this case ruled against the Trust, deciding that they weren’t proportionate in how they discounted absences, including one which was probably Covid related, and then in how they accommodated and supported the claimant’s disabilities.
“There is no requirement in law to discount all absences relating to disability, but it is recommended that some should be discounted.” Said Tony, “Employers need to prepare to accept that not only can Long Covid be defined as a disability, but that absence management/sickness policies must be clear that staff with disabilities should be managed carefully and sensitively with consideration that some if not all disability related absences could be discounted when applying trigger points and setting attendance targets.”
HR Now advise all businesses to regularly assess their staff handbooks and policies in line with changing legislation and best practice, and to ensure that policies are clearly communicated and fairly practiced.