NHS Wales guidance for managers - supporting employees on long term sickness absence with a diagnosis of post-COVID-19 syndrome
For some of our workforce, COVID-19 has caused symptoms that have lasted for weeks or months after the initial infection. This is referred to in this guidance as “post-COVID-19 syndrome”, but also applies to employees who have been diagnosed in accordance with the NICE clinical definitions (above). Post-COVID-19 Syndrome is used to describe four weeks (or more) of continuing symptoms and an individual’s personal difficulty to perform their normal activities, routine and occupation. Typically, post-COVID-19 syndrome include persistent fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog (cognitive challenges), insomnia, dizziness, depression, anxiety (and a range of other symptoms which can be found on the Public Health Wales website). Post-COVID-19 syndrome is more common within our society than we would expect, with The Office for National Statistics estimating that one in five people have symptoms after five weeks and one in ten experiencing symptoms for 12 weeks or longer.
While recovery from post-COVID-19 syndrome can be slow, treatments are improving as more is known about the illness and many people improve, albeit in some cases, over a prolonged period. An employee may have concerns about the prospect of returning to work after having time off with post-COVID-19 syndrome (particularly if they have still not fully recovered) and may require additional support from their manager and organisation.
The purpose of this document is to provide guidance for managers and assist them in facilitating, enabling and supporting employees, who have had a post-COVID-19 syndrome diagnosis, to return to work where it is appropriate and safe to do so. This guidance is intended to compliment and sit alongside the All Wales Managing Attendance at Work (MAAW) Policy and the COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for Managers and Employees and reflect their overarching principles:
- managers will be supported to manage during this period in the decisions which they make;
- managers are encouraged to make proportionate judgements as the specific circumstances present themselves and in making these decisions, to follow appropriate assessment of risk;
- the primary responsibility for the management of workforce related situations rests with individual managers. The rationale for this approach is that managers should “know their employees” and be familiar with the issues, individual circumstances and needs of their 2 employees; managers in “knowing their employee”, and having discussed and understood the individual’s needs and circumstances have discretion to determine an appropriate way forward, e.g. whether working from home can be accommodated or being deployed to another area would help with returning to the workplace, they should consider the appropriateness of the decision for that particular individual against the demands of the service;
- the health and wellbeing of employees and patients is of paramount importance.
Organisations are expected to promote awareness of this guidance amongst employees and managers and ensure the agreed approaches set out are applied consistently across organisations.
This guidance has been developed by the Managing Attendance at Work Project Group, in partnership, and will be updated to reflect emerging research around post-COVID-19 syndrome.
Click here for the guidance in Welsh.