Long Covid; Does it Meet the Definition of a Disability?

In a recent employment tribunal ruling, Terence Burke, who had been dismissed from his job due to ongoing long Covid, successfully claimed that long Covid is a disability under the Equality Act. The panel in the tribunal concluded that coronavirus had left him in a debilitated with “substantial and long-term side effects” and as such was wrongfully dismissed. Judge James Young agreed that the evidence and examples given of Mr Burke’s condition as a result of contracting coronavirus meet “the definition of disability”. The claimant will now bring claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination against his employer in a final tribunal hearing. 

What does this mean for employers?

Experts have stated that the outcome of this tribunal case could lead to a “snowballing” effect where more and more people will come forward with claims that they have been wrongfully dismissed due to being affected by long Covid.  It has also been stated that the amount of people affected by long Covid will only increase and that it is important to take note of the issues discussed in this employment tribunal to manage similar situations with care and in line with the Equality Act.

One way to ensure that moving forward employees are not wrongfully dismissed for being affected by long Covid is to familiarise yourself with the most common symptoms and ensuring that adequate measures are put in place to help with employees who are suffering with said symptoms.

It is important to keep up to date with the tribunal as the way in which long Covid is treated moving forward will likely be based on the outcome of the employment tribunal. If Mr Burke is successful at claiming unfair dismissal due to discrimination of a disability, it will impact how future claims will be conducted and the potential outcome of them.

While more information is required to fully understand the ramifications of dismissing an employee due to long Covid, it is recommended to aid your employees suffering with these symptoms as sufficiently as you can until more is understood about the matter.

For more information on how to manage absence cases, or for any other HR related issues, feel free to contact us at [email protected] and we will be happy to help you with any queries you may have.