Long Covid affecting half of employers

A large study by the CIPD and Simplyhealth shows long Covid remains a pressing concern for employers. It highlights new guidance on how organisations can support their staff, avoid presenteeism and burnout.

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The CIPD/Simplyhealth survey of 804 organisations, representing more than 4.3 million employees, reports that nearly half of employers have staff who have experienced long Covid in the last year. It also found one in four (26%) employers now regard long Covid as among their main causes of long-term sickness absence. 

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The findings come as employers are being urged to respond to issues like stress and burnout and re-assess existing health and wellbeing support given the unprecedented events of the past few years and their impact on mental and physical wellbeing.A fifth (20%) of employers said they didn’t know whether any employees have experienced ongoing symptoms from Covid-19 in the last year. This, the CIPD suggests, means the problem could be underestimated as a workplace issue.The figures also add to ongoing concerns around presenteeism, especially with the increase in regular hybrid and remote working practices.

Supporting line managers to support colleagues

Only a quarter (26%) of organisations are providing training/guidance for line managers on how to support people to stay at work when managing health conditions. An even smaller number (19%) provide any guidance for employees.Employees may therefore be missing out on vital support from their employer or may not feel confident about how to disclose issues and get the right support. In response, the CIPD is calling on organisations to urgently review their health and wellbeing strategy and ensure they are providing effective support for those with long Covid, recognising that each individual’s experience is different. To support employers, the CIPD/Affinity Health at Work today released a new report Working with long COVID: Research evidence to inform support. The CIPD also has up-to-date guidance on managing and supporting employees with long-term health conditions.  Encouragingly, of those employers with employees who have experienced long Covid, many are taking steps to support their staff, such as:  
  • Offering occupational health assessments (70%)  
  • Tailoring support to individual need (60%) 
  • Promoting flexible working (58%)

Workplace inclusion and long-term health conditions

Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Adviser for Employment Relations at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments: “Long Covid remains a growing issue that employers need to be aware of, and they should take appropriate steps to support employees with the condition."There’s a risk that those who experience ongoing long Covid symptoms may not get the support they need in the workplace and could even fall out of work. “Employers should ensure they have a supportive and inclusive culture that helps employees feel confident to discuss a health condition and ask for support or helpful changes when needed, such as a phased return or flexible working arrangements. "Line managers should be given training and guidance on how to support members of their team with the condition, including how to facilitate a successful return to work following illness. Managers should bear in mind that employees might be reluctant to discuss ongoing health symptoms, so should check-in with their team regularly and ensure there are opportunities for them to flag any issues."Angela Sherwood, Chief People Officer at Simplyhealth, a leading UK health plan provider, adds: “This new research from CIPD clearly demonstrates the significant impact of long Covid on employee health. We encourage all employers to recognise the full impact of Covid in their organisation and to update their health and wellbeing strategies to support employees back to full health and into work.”  

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