On Tuesday 30 November, Greater Manchester Law Centre gave expert evidence on Long Covid, employment and welfare rights to an All-Party Parliamentary Group, the APPG on Coronavirus. We gave evidence alongside the TUC, Long Covid sufferers and medical experts around our recommendations on how to reform law and policy to better support those experiencing Long Covid. The Independent covered the story and quoted some of the evidence given by our Director, Jason Tetley. You can watch the whole APPG discussion here, or read an excerpt from the Independent below.
Long Covid sufferers and trade unions have called on the government to urgently recognise the condition as a long-term disability, to unlock badly-needed support for those forced into poverty by their symptoms.
Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus during an evidence session on Tuesday, people who have been living with Long Covid said they were barred from most financial support despite losing jobs.
The group also heard evidence from occupational health doctors and legal experts about the confusion across the sector when it came to understanding Long Covid and rights at work.
Jason Tetley, from the Greater Manchester Law Centre, said until an employment tribunal had ruled on the question of employees’ rights when suffering from Long Covid, few lawyers would take on a case of a worker cut off from financial support because of their illness.
Sue Coe, the Trades Union Congress’ senior equality policy officer, said it was vital the government passed legislation confirming Long Covid did qualify as a disability under the Equality Act, to protect the 1.2m Britons believed to still be experiencing Covid symptoms more than three months after infection.
Although there were hundreds of employment tribunals underway which would test the legal uncertainty around Long Covid, the backlog as a result of the pandemic is now beyond a year, which meant there would no rulings until closer to 2023.
“But as we have heard earlier what we need is support now,” she said. “Workers are being discriminated against, workers are being forced out of work, and we need protection now, not established through employment tribunals a year down the line.”
Instead, the government could simply pass secondary legislation quickly through parliament naming Long Covid as an impairment under the Equality Act and resolve the problem now, she argued.
“What we are reliant on is people having the skills and the aptitude to negotiate with their employers and to enforce their rights, at the very time when they are ill and don’t have the capacity to do that,” Mr Tetley added.
“There’s also the financial pressure, so there is a perfect storm. What I would like to see is a clearer definition in terms of disability that clarifies the situation.”