Employer policies should be regularly updated to reflect current living conditions. At present that means accounting for Covid related absences.

Employers have an anticipatory duty under the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) to remove barriers to the inclusion of disabled staff where it is proportionate to do so.This may mean anticipating the needs of staff with long Covid before issues arise. Management should be consulting staff now, if they haven’t done so already, about what those needs may be and how they may be met.

Adopting a Covid-19 specific appendix to an existing policy is a helpful tool for maintaining transparency and consistency in managing Covid-19 related absence. Please use the checklist below, which sets out minimum requirements for an acceptable policy.

Illness due to Covid-19, including long Covid :

  • absence due to Covid-19 related illness (including long Covid) will be recorded as sickness absence if the employee is unable to work from home, but will not be counted towards any absence management procedures
  • if the employee is still able to work from home, this will not be recorded as sick leave and pay will not be recorded as sick pay
  • if the employee is too ill to work from home, it will be counted as sickness absence on full pay
  • sickness absence due to Covid-19 will not be counted towards any employee’s sickness entitlement
  • employees with Covid-19 symptoms will not be expected to undertake work at home
  • where it is likely that Covid-19 was contracted in the school/college, this will be reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) under RIDDOR and all contractual/statutory entitlements arising from contracting the disease in the workplace will apply
  • any RIDDOR reports will be shared with the employee and health and safety committee/health and safety representatives.

Long Covid

Long Covid is described as the signs and symptoms that develop during or following an infection consistent with Covid-19, that continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis. Long Covid encompasses a diverse range of symptoms including breathlessness, chronic fatigue, muscle pains, brain ‘fog’, chest pains, persistent cough, skin rashes, diarrhoea and even strokes and heart failure.

Where employees are suffering from persistent Covid-19 related symptoms (long Covid) this appendix will confirm:

  • Staff are encouraged to make their employer aware of their symptoms at the earliest opportunity and in writing.
  • Individual risk assessments will be carried out by the employer’s H&S competent person
  • Recommendations in OH reports will be carried out
  • Any other reasonable adjustments will be carried out
  • Time off with pay will be granted for any medical appointments and/or treatments within normal working hours
  • Members who have an extreme reaction to the Covid-19 vaccine and develop conditions or experience the worsening of underlying conditions as a result should receive the same support as members with suspected or confirmed long Covid

In addition, where employees are unable to return to work:

  • The employer will, following a satisfactory GP or physician’s report, treat the condition as a disability under the Equality Act/DDA
  • Regular welfare meetings will be agreed
  • Extended phased returns of up to 10 weeks will be available in agreement with a medical practitioner
  • Requests for short-term flexible working following the phased return will be agreed where necessary
  • Long-term flexible working requests will be supported and treated sympathetically.

Where the Burgundy Book applies – Section 4, para 10 provides that teachers who are made ill by a contagious or infectious disease in the course of their employment may be absent on full pay for as long as an approved medical practitioner attests that they are more likely than not to be suffering the effects of that illness. The NEU argues that long covid is a continuation of covid.  Such absence should not be counted against the teacher’s entitlement to standard sick leave and pay. Similar entitlements exist for support staff under the Green Book Scheme (see para. 10.2).

Please see Supporting members with long covid.

Non-sickness Covid-19 related absence

  • absence due to any government mandated self-isolation will be discounted for the purposes of sickness entitlement or absence monitoring procedures.
  • employees who, in line with a detailed risk assessment, have been advised to work from home will not be considered on leave and will receive full pay
  • pregnant employees who are unable to attend the workplace will not have their maternity leave brought forward, unless they are ill and unable to work due to a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks immediately before their due date
  • Staff who have to take leave to care for a child, or other household dependant, who has covid symptoms or has tested positive, should receive full pay.