Employment tribunal rules long COVID is a disability

In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, an employment tribunal has ruled that long COVID (also known as post-COVID syndrome) meets the criteria for a disability

In a landmark ruling, a caretaker working for a charity successfully proved that coronavirus left him with “substantial and long-term” side effects affecting his ability to work.

Terence Burke first contracted COVID-19 in November 2020 and, despite initially having mild symptoms, lost the ability to undertake even simple household tasks and maintain concentration. Mr Burke successfully fought a disability discrimination case against his former employer, following his dismissal after being too exhausted to return to work for nine months.

Tribunal Judge James Young found that the condition substantially impacted on Mr Burke’s daily life, and commented: “I consider that the relevant tests are met to meet the definition of disability.”

The latest data from the Office of National Statistics estimates that two million people in the UK live with long COVID.

Links for further reading:

Diabetes Information Update – March 2022

The following guidance from Lancashire Constabulary is recommended by the DPA as best practice for police officers and staff managing diabetes in the workplace

Diabetes and the Equality Act 2010
A person can be considered to be disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities.

People with type 1 diabetes on insulin and type 2 diabetes requiring medication should automatically be considered disabled under the Act. A person with type 2 diabetes controlled by diet is not automatically protected by disability discrimination legislation and therefore the effect the disability has on the person, rather than the diagnosis itself should be considered.

Workplace adjustments
Workplace/reasonable adjustments should be considered on an individual basis and might include for example:

  • Allowing time off during working hours for treatment and assessment
  • Allowing more breaks to eat and administer insulin
  • Taking the disability into consideration when monitoring sickness absence
  • Accommodating temporary or permanent adjustments to shift patterns
  • Accommodating officers / police staff who do not meet the medical standards to drive

If you have diabetes, it is important to ensure that you adhere to the dietary requirements of your condition and maintain a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise in order to keep your diabetes well controlled and limit the onset of complications. This in turn will help you to sustain regular attendance at work, and you should report any significant changes in your condition including complications (e.g. eyesight, nerve, kidney or heart problems) to your manager and/or Occupational Health so that appropriate adjustments (even if just temporary) can be put in place to ensure your safety, and the safety of others whilst you are at work.

It is important for anyone with type 1 diabetes that they are supported within the workplace in terms of what can be put into place to support everyone. For this to be able to work for both parties it is important that you are open with how your condition is affecting you, as well as what you need in terms of adjustments, and especially in terms of the legal aspect of insurance.

We need to ensure that all police officers and staff with diabetes who work in high-risk roles have an individual health risk assessment to ensure that all reasonable control measures are in place to help them to maintain optimum control of their condition and to reduce the risk of harm occurring to the officer or staff member, their colleagues, or members of the public.

A risk assessment should be carried out by the manager with the officer or staff member – an Occupational Health nurse adviser or member of the Health & Safety team should assist where required and requested.

If an officer or staff member does not consider their diabetes to be well controlled and stable, or who has had disabling hypoglycaemia in the last 12 months, they should not be asked to carry out high risk activity – this should be covered as part of the risk assessment.

Officers and staff members who have no awareness of symptoms when their blood glucose is low should not be asked to carry out high risk activities, and should refer to Occupational Health for further advice and guidance.

Blood glucose self-monitoring for blue light/response drivers
This must be carried out at the same regularity as required by the DVLA for bus and lorry drivers, i.e.:

  • Regular blood glucose testing – at least twice daily including on days when not driving, and no more than two hours before the start of the first journey and every two hours whilst driving
  • Use one or more glucose meters with memory functions to ensure three months of readings
  • More frequent self-monitoring may be required with any greater risk of hypoglycaemia (e.g. physical activity, altered meal routine)

Where a control measure is not in place or additional control/support measures are identified, list the actions to be taken, by whom and the date for completion as part of the risk assessment.

The individual health risk assessment should be reviewed at least annually or when there has been a significant change in working practice or condition, or any change in medication. ∎

Accessibility features within Microsoft Office 365 and Teams apps

With most police forces within the UK at various stages of introducing Microsoft Office 365 as part of the transition to using Windows 10, and using Microsoft Teams as the ‘go-to’ conferencing tool, it is time to make use of the inbuilt accessibility features

To start the journey we will start with some of the accessibility features available including: live captions, dictation, an Immersive Reader and accessibility checker

Teams captions
Captions can be used in Teams meetings by clicking on the three dots and selecting ‘captions’ from the menu.  It is worth noting that these are displayed on your screen only, rather than being shared by all participants.  Sharing the availability of this feature may assist other colleagues on the call.

You can use your microphone to dictate content into several apps – including Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint – rather than using your keyboard. This feature is constantly being improved and can be used for several languages.

Immersive Reader
Microsoft’s Immersive Reader tool implements proven techniques to improve reading and writing for people, regardless of age or ability. It can help build confidence for emerging readers learning to read at higher levels, and offer text decoding solutions for colleagues with learning differences such as dyslexia. Let’s have a look at what it can offer you and your colleagues:

  • Change font size, text spacing, and background colour
  • Split up words into syllables
  • Highlight verbs, nouns, adjectives and sub-clauses
  • Choose between two fonts optimised to help with reading
  • Read out text aloud and change the speed of reading
  • Translate text into different languages

Accessibility Checker
The Accessibility Checker ensures your Microsoft Office content is easy for people of all abilities to read and edit. Therefore, you can make sure the content you create and share with your colleagues is accessible to everyone and means that you may be able to reach an individual that you may have otherwise missed without using this feature.

These features are free to use and are improving all the time. They have no effect upon security, and most colleagues should be able to use them easily. Whilst not applicable in all cases, these tools may replace additional software which can add additional costs to adjustments. Please try them to see if they are suitable for you. There are several ‘how-to’ videos available via intranet search engines, and we hope to have useful guides available in due course. ∎