5 Things Employers Need to Know About Accommodating Long COVID
By Daniel N. Jolivet, PhD, Workplace Possibilities Practice Consultant, The Standard
As COVID-19 transitions from a pandemic (a disease spreading at an exponential rate across the entire world) to an endemic (an illness that exists at an expected baseline level), the challenges employers face are changing.
Instead of a crisis when extraordinary measures are implemented to minimize transmission, such as government stay-at-home orders and restrictions, focused interventions are required to keep employees healthy, such as disinfecting surfaces and requiring sick workers to stay at home. Rather than coping with large numbers of employees who are critically ill, employers are more likely to see workers with chronic symptoms following active COVID-19 infections in the coming months and years.
These symptoms are often lumped together under the Long COVID label, although the medical term is post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, or PASC. Symptoms of Long COVID include, but are not limited to, fatigue, heart palpitations, difficulty concentrating (brain fog), anxiety or depression, and joint pain.1
Long COVID may lead to a significant increase in the number of Americans who require reasonable accommodations to do the essential functions of their jobs. The actual number of people struggling with these symptoms is unclear. Some organizations2 cite more than 25 million cases of Long COVID so far, but other research findings suggest there are fewer than 7 million2 cases. To complicate the assessment of its impact, some symptoms associated with Long COVID, such as a loss of smell or taste, are unlikely to affect most workers’ ability to do their jobs. Even when Long COVID does lead to work limitations, those effects are virtually always temporary.
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