Civil service’s biggest union wants Long Covid classed as a disability

PCS conference hears departmental managers have “blasé attitude” to crippling condition suffered by millions
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By Jim Dunton

26 May 2023

Delegates to the PCS union’s annual conference have backed a motion calling for departments and other public-sector employers to treat Long Covid as a disability.

The motion also commits PCS – which is the civil service’s biggest union – to surveying its 193,000-plus members on their experiences of the debilitating condition, believed to have affected millions of people in the UK.

Members of PCS who work at HM Revenue and Customs’ Stratford branch proposed the motion, which was passed “overwhelmingly” at the union’s conference in Brighton yesterday.

The motion’s proposer – identified only as William – said he knew people who had suffered from Long Covid and one member who described it as “being like a zombie for three months”.

The delegate said there was a “blasé” attitude among senior managers in relation to Long Covid.

“It’s high time that we took long-term health conditions like Covid seriously because for a long time they have been ignored,” he said.

“Long Covid is causing a great deal of suffering for a large number of people.”

The motion cited Office for National Statistics data from January indicating that at the end of last year there were an estimated 2 million people experiencing Long Covid, more than half of whom had been suffering for more than a year.

The ONS’ most recent Long Covid data says that as of early March an estimated 1.9 million people were experiencing self-reported symptoms. Sixty-nine percent said they first had Covid-19 at least one year previously; 41% said they first had Covid-19 at least two years previously.

The just-passed conference motion commits PCS to publishing advice and campaigning for equality and health and safety rights to help ensure members know their entitlements. It will also  negotiate and agree clear management guidance on Long Covid.

Additionally, PCS said it would campaign with the TUC and other organisations to get the correct degree of recognition for Long Covid.

In March the TUC published survey data indicating that Long Covid sufferers feared informing employers about their condition because they believed bosses would either do nothing or take a negative view of their condition.

It found that 12% of workers who responded to the survey had not told their employer about their Long Covid symptoms at all.

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