The pandemic has had a major impact on people’s health and as we move to “living with Covid”, it is clear that due to its unpredictability there are many parts of the disease that we still don’t understand.

Symptoms that persist for some people, known as “long-COVID”, can have a huge impact on people’s lives. It is important that we continue with the good infection control practices implemented during the height of the pandemic.

What is Long-COVID?

There is no universally agreed definition of long-COVID. It is however characterised by a persistence of symptoms and effects that have lasted for four weeks or more following the initial COVID diagnosis. 

The NHS also refers to post-COVID syndrome where symptoms have remained for 12 weeks or more.

The duration of the illness is still being observed. Recovery time is not known and can vary from person to person. It is important to note that whilst some people may be experiencing symptoms following COVID, they may not realise that it is related.

It is important to note that:

  • recovery time is different for everyone but for most people symptoms will resolve by 12 weeks
  • long-COVID can occur regardless of disease severity, including in those who only experienced mild illness from COVID-19 infection
  • if someone has new or ongoing symptoms these can alter and affect them in different ways at different times

Does Long-COVID mean you are still infectious?

No. People are generally infectious for up to 10 days after testing positive or becoming symptomatic

Symptoms

Long-COVID can result in people having more than one symptom, these can vary from person to person and can include (but are not limited to):

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty or loss of attention and memory disturbances ‘brain fog’
  • Breathlessness
  • A cough that’s been ongoing since you’ve had COVID-19
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Dizziness
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • Changes to sense of smell or taste

Is Long-COVID a disability?

Legally, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that has a “substantial and long-term” negative effect on a person's ability to do normal day-to-day activities. This means it is likely to affect someone for over 12 months or for the rest of their lives. 

Due to the fact that this is a new illness it is difficult to predict the duration and therefore workplaces are being encouraged to think about what reasonable adjustments. The ACAS website has more information about this for employers and workplaces.

Long-COVID in the workplace

Due to the fact that Long-COVID symptoms can vary from day to day and in severity it can affect someone’s ability to complete tasks, which can have an impact on work.  This should be considered when thinking about the type of support that can be offered to employees and what is feasible within the workplace such as:

  • Altering working arrangements – including hours or location
  • Changing duties
  • Making adaptations to the workplace
  • Having regular conversations with colleagues to see how they are getting on
  • Phased returns to work
  • Referrals to occupational health service (if applicable)
  • Referrals to other relevant support services

Further information

Sickness and absence because of long COVID: Long COVID – advice for employers and employees - Acas

Long-term effects of coronavirus (long COVID) - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Home - Long COVID Support

Your COVID Recovery | Supporting your recovery after COVID-19

Supporting recovery after long COVID | NHS Employers

Long-COVID Support service in Warrington (disabilitypartnership.org.uk)