16 February, 2022
As we approach the two year anniversary of the first lockdown being implemented due to Covid 19, attention continues to focus on whether people with long term Covid symptoms (long Covid) should be able to apply for Government financial support and indeed possibly bring a civil action against their employer.
At this stage, Covid 19 is still not recognised as a UK prescribed industrial disease. The UK All Party Parliamentary Group on the Coronavirus, chaired by Layla Moran of the Liberal Democrats, has been calling for the UK to follow the lead of countries including Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Spain and list Covid 19 as a prescribed disease.
The UK Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (the IIAC), produced an interim paper on the subject in March 2021 in which they considered the data produced by the Office for National Statistics to the end of 2020. In considering whether a disease should become a prescribed disease, the council looks at whether the disease in question can be attributed to occupational exposure with reasonable confidence ie the risk of developing the disease associated with a particular occupational exposure, or circumstance, is more than doubled.
In March 2021, the IIAC could not recommend prescription because of the limited data at its disposal, as there had been few studies of long covid. However, it did conclude that they were on the pathway to recommending prescription based on it's observation that there was a clear association between occupation and increased risk of Covid 19. The report found that there was a doubling of the risk for several occupations including healthcare, social and education work, transport, retail work and food processing.
This month it has been reported that recent research shows that UK employers have advised that Long Covid is responsible for one in four staff absences. On 8th February, Layla Moran again called for the Government to recognise it as an occupational disease and provide formal guidance to employers and create a compensation scheme for key workers, who are unable to return to work.
It is likely that the IIAC will examine updated data from 2021 and provide a further report in due course.
If and when Covid 19 does become a prescribed disease, those who are deemed to be suffering from it will be able to apply for financial assistance from the Government, in the form of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
There will also be scope for civil claims against employers, if it is found that the appropriate risk assessments were not in place, or there was a failure to provide adequate PPE and/or there was an outbreak of cases but the employer failed to adapt a regime or take other steps to keep the workplace safe. At this stage, we await guidance as to the potential value of such claims brought within the scope of Covid 19, in addition to claims for symptoms and the associated time away from work because of long covid. We also anticipate an increase in claims for repetitive strain injuries and stress at work, in association with the section of the workforce that was asked to work from home during the pandemic amongst other issues.
Learn more about our Insurance department here