The Long Equality and COVID-19 Act
There are three considerations that the Equality Act 2010 uses to determine if a condition is a protected disability:
- There must be a physical or mental disability.
- The disability lasts longer than 12 months.
- A disability causes a significant impact on an individual’s daily activities.
While a prolonged COVID-19 experience doesn’t qualify them all for these requirements, some people’s circumstances do. The Care Court decision took into account that prolonged COVID-19 symptoms can fluctuate over time, and still qualifies the caregiver as having a disability that has lasted at least 12 months.
Deirdre Costigan, National Officer at UNISON, the UK’s largest public service union, based in London, said.
It’s unclear whether COVID-19 can be covered for a long time through the Equality Act, given the variety of symptoms and the disease is still new and has not been studied. “There have been calls for COVID to be added to the legislation for a long time as a disability, but the difficulty, the resistance nonetheless is long, COVID affects different people in different ways,” said Julie Temple, an attorney at Birket Long in Essex. , England.
How employers should react to the prolonged COVID-19
Convincing employers to make adjustments to employees who have had COVID-19 for a long time isn’t always easy.
“Sometimes employers don’t believe something unless it has been tested in court,” Kostigan said. “So the fact that the court in this last case accepted that the individual had been disabled by the long-running coronavirus was a really positive outcome.”
While some employers may need more legislative encouragement to accommodate workers with prolonged COVID-19, many others are trying to adapt to a disability. “Employers are becoming more aware of [long COVID-19]and some are well aware of what their obligations are and will do their best to accommodate people and try to keep them in business,” Temple said.
There is no implementation mechanism
There is no effective enforcement mechanism for the Equality Act 2010, and labor courts are backed by a year or two. Also, court decisions are not binding, despite appeal decisions.
“I would encourage employees and employers to try to work together…it may be easier for employees, in some industries and in some roles, to work from home, thus reducing the impact that COVID could have for a long time,” Temple said.
However, the Labor Court’s decision involving the caretaker is already paving the way for future cases that will consider COVID-19 for a long time. “There will be more case law on this,” Costigan said. “I think this will make it a little easier for union representatives to be able to say that their long-term COVID members are out of action.”
Katie Nadorny is a freelance writer based in Istanbul.