As I've discussed in other posts, the Equality Act 2010 (the "EA") offers protection against discrimination on the basis of certain "protected characteristics".  One of these protected characteristics is "disability".  

I find that employers and employees alike are often taken aback to discover how many different conditions may technically be disabilities for the purposes of equality law.  While society is, hopefully (!), becoming more familiar with the concept of invisible disabilities, some people still have fairly narrow views about what it means to be disabled.

When it comes to equality law, there is a clear definition of "disability".  For the purposes of the EA, a person is "disabled" 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. In this definition, "substantial" means more than minor or trivial and "long-term" typically means 12 months or more. This is a broad definition, and so there are plenty of people out there who do not consider themselves as being disabled, but who may have protection against disability discrimination under the EA.

Amongst those who may have protection are the approximately two million people reported to be living with long Covid in the UK.  Long Covid was recently found by an employment tribunal to be a disability for the purposes of the EA. This case may be the first of many, as employers start to deal with those on long term sickness absence following the pandemic. 

It's important to remember that the question of "disability" remains fact specific and will be decided on a case by case basis, meaning that not all sufferers of long Covid will meet the requirements of the EA.  However, employers will need to be mindful of this decision and should take occupational health advice and consider potential reasonable adjustments that might be made to help those with this post-viral syndrome return to the workplace.