The NASUWT has launched a campaign for Long Covid to be legally recognised as a disability. We are also calling for reasonable adjustments, flexible working, changes to pension eligibility and financial compensation for teachers left unable to teach as a result of contracting Covid.
More than one million people in the UK are now living with Long Covid, with teachers and education support staff the second most likely profession to be affected, only just behind healthcare workers.
There is a general lack of awareness of Long Covid and how it affects people. This includes employers too who may not fully understand the implications of the condition, and individuals who may be trying to ‘soldier on’ rather than seeking support. Some employers are responding to Long Covid in an inappropriate way, such as not accepting the condition as a legitimate illness, accelerating absence management processes, or not applying reasonable adjustments.
ONS figures indicate white people are far more likely to report Long Covid symptoms than black people. Given the significantly greater impact of the virus among black populations, a lower prevalence of Long Covid seems unlikely and is more likely to signify significant under-reporting.
Currently Long Covid is not defined as a disability, thus it lacks the same statutory protections that other long-term conditions have. Currently to access ill health retirement benefits, permanent incapacity to teach is required. This is very difficult to establish with Long Covid.
The NASUWT’s Long Covid campaign aims to:
- Raise awareness of the condition, and its impact on teachers
- Obtain statutory recognition of Long Covid as a disability under the Equality Act/Disability Discrimination Act (Northern Ireland). This will mean sufferers will have statutory protections, such as the right to reasonable adjustments and protection against discrimination.
- Challenge education employers to ensure that teachers who are suffering Long Covid are supported and not treated unfairly by ensuring sufferers have access to decent sickness absence provision, recognition of Long Covid as an illness, and reasonable adjustments at work including rights to time off, extended phased returns and access to flexible working.
- address the inadequacy of teachers’ pension schemes by calling for an additional form of ill-health retirement option based on an incapacity for a fixed period of time.
- secure financial compensation for teachers who have contracted Covid as a direct result of their work (as happens in the NHS).
The NASUWT has created number of tools to support the campaign, including a model Covid absence checklist which members and reps can use with employers to ensure sickness absence policies are updated to incorporate the needs of Long Covid sufferers and reasonable adjustments are negotiated for teachers with Long Covid in the workplace.
Members can use the NASUWT website to lobby their MP and sign the campaign petition.
More details of the campaign can be found at https://www.nasuwt.org.uk/news/campaigns/long-covid-campaign.html