New guidance for organisations: how to take a strategic, planned approach to managing Long COVID

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Office of National Statistics (ONS) data estimates that 2.0 million people in the UK are living with Long-Covid, and a recent landmark employment tribunal means that Long-Covid is now recognised as a disability.

With these developments in mind, it’s reassuring to see that The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) is calling for organisations to take a strategic, planned, approach to managing Long COVID in the workforce.

The limits of line manager responsibility

According to SOM, there needs to be early, appropriate intervention, using occupational health input – rather than leave it to individual line managers to decide how to best manage each case.

To help employers achieve SOM has put together guidance which assists on identification and management of Long COVID – particularly regarding return to work. The guidance is designed to be of use to occupational health providers, employers, workers, people with Long COVID, HR personnel, managers, medical, allied health professionals and Trades Unions.

Cross-organisation coordination

In the guidance, SOM explain that a multi-disciplinary approach is essential to help retain and support people affected by Long COVID to return to work.

Dr Clare Rayner, retired consultant occupational physician and Long COVID expert, said:

“Occupational health professionals can support people with Long COVID with their return to work and advise on improving their daily functioning. Early intervention can make a significant difference to the severity and length of Long COVID. A one-off scan or specialist consultation in the early phase to pinpoint the key issues can mean recovery within weeks rather than months”.

The guide also includes appendices on:

  • Universal first-line screening assessment in Long COVID
  • Red flags and specialist referral
  • Treatment which can help function and recovery
  • Rehabilitation
  • Specific Fitness for Work considerations after COVID-19 infection
  • Examples of workplace adjustments for Long COVID
  • Prevention of infection: risk management in the workplace
  • Workplace public health messages
  • Case studies.

SOM also welcomes the new NHS England advice launched end of July 2022 for healthcare professionals in primary care, commissioning guidance for post COVID services, and enabling planning for improving Long COVID services.

Find out more

You can find useful research publications on Long COVID and employment here and here.

You can download SOM’s new guidance ‘Long COVID and Return to Work – What Works?’ here.

You can read more about the employment tribunal which recognised Long-Covid is a disability here.

You can find out why SOM sees Long Covid as a mental health priority for workplace health here.

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You can find out more about SOM’s survey, indicating that businesses need to be more strategic and seek occupational health guidance, in order to avoid wasting resources and money on ineffective workplace health initiatives here.

You might also be interested in joining our roundtable discussion on how employers can approach Long Covid at our 5th annual MAD World Summit on 11 October in Central London. The roundtable will be facilitated by Dr Judith Grant, Mace’s former Director of Health and Wellbeing, who has personal experience of Long Covid. Find out more and register here.

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