Employers must be prepared for ‘long Covid’ impacts on the workforce

Brett Hill, distribution director -Towergate Health & Protection

In the UK, 300,000 people have reported Covid symptoms lasting longer than a month. The condition is only just beginning to be understood, and as cases of Covid-19 increase, this is likely to have a knock-on effect on the number of cases of ‘long Covid’. As such, all employers need to be aware of the potential impact on their workforce, and how they can support employees that may be affected.

David Williams, head of group risk at Towergate Health & Protection says: ‘“Long Covid” can affect many areas of an employee’s life, and the impact can be complex and escalate. However, the health and wellbeing industry, including group risk, has been working hard to provide support specifically for employers to offer their employees affected by “long Covid”. It’s incredibly important that employers are aware of what’s available as it can make a significant difference to employees’ wellbeing physically, financially and emotionally.’

Physical support

There has been increased focus on prevention and early intervention within health and wellbeing benefits, with support being offered to employees when they experience physical or mental health issues, whether or not they’re absent from work. This can include providing access to physiotherapy, on-demand consultations with GPs, a prescription delivery service and nutrition advice, right through to rehabilitation, support on improving fitness and help with returning to work.

Financial support

If people are unable to work because of medium- or long-term sickness as a result of the effects of ‘long Covid’ – be that mental or physical – then they will be eligible for financial support, and have their income replaced if their employer offers them income protection as an employee benefit. In the UK 2.6 million employees are currently covered by this employee benefit.

Emotional support

The emotional toll of a long-term illness can affect many areas of an employee’s life. It can result in a range of issues including anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Having access to specialists that can support people through this aspect of ‘long Covid’ can be a great help. Dependants and families can have their own worries too when a loved one is affected, and support can also be extended to them.

David Williams continued: ‘With the world waiting on a Covid-19 vaccine, and treatments for the condition still being trialled, employers may assume there’s nothing they can do to support those with “long Covid”, but in fact there is a lot of support available. Being prepared for the impact of this condition needs to be part and parcel of all health and wellbeing programmes, and it’s important for employers to know that employees don’t need to be absent to access support.’

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