Up to 1 million people in the UK are reportedly suffering from the effects of Long COVID – or ‘Post-Covid 19 Syndrome’, with many jobseekers unable to work or needing special arrangements to stay productive. But a common question being asked by many of those diagnosed with Long Covid is ‘is protected as a disability under the Equality Act 2010’? We discuss this and what it means for jobseekers below.
The term ‘long Covid’ is used to describe symptoms that remain four weeks after having COVID 19, and has recognised symptoms including extreme tiredness, chest pains, difficulty sleeping, shortness of breath, and issues with concentration and memory. Symptoms can come and go, similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Long Covid sufferers may find they are still not able to work after many months.
Is Long COVID a Disability?
Whilst many suffering from long COVID are unable to lead a normal life, there is currently no definitive answer to whether ‘long Covid’ satisfies the statutory definition of a disability under Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010. As long COVID is still a new illness, this may change in the future, but for now it remains a non-disability.
However, that is not to say you won’t be entitled to jobseekers support if suffering from long COVID. You may still be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and attend work placement schemes such as the Work Programme, which specialises in helping long COVID sufferers, as well as those with other long-term disabilities.
You must be available for and actively seeking work to claim JSA, so it is important that you do not give up on your search just because of long COVID. There are a number of ways Long Covid can affect the way you search for work, so make sure you are aware of the options available to help. Whilst long Covid is not currently protected as a disability, it does not mean it cannot be in future.
What Support is Available to Me as a Jobseeker?
If Long COVID has made finding and maintaining employment difficult, Jobcentre Plus offer tailored support, which can include:
– Long COVID self-assessment tool (to identify how Long Covid has affected you)
– Long COVID -specific work placement scheme (the Work Programme, which specialises in helping Long COVID sufferers, as well as those with other long-term disabilities.)
– Access to job clubs and workshops.
If the effects of long COVID are still hindering your ability to find work, you may be eligible for Incapacity Benefit (IB) instead. As long COVID is not currently recognised as a disability, it cannot automatically entitle you to claim IB. But some long COVID sufferers have been granted this benefit by successfully claiming through their GP or an Employment Support Allowance health professional. Long COVID sufferers wishing to claim IB need to be assessed by an experienced healthcare professional, so it is advisable that you speak with your GP if you feel this benefit would be more appropriate for you than JSA.
For further support, visit our Disability Advice Hub and our dedicated disability jobs board for live opportunities for disabled jobseekers near you.