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Council for Work and Health: statement on Long Covid

Council for Work and Health statement on Long Covid

For people with Long Covid, there needs to be workplace support for return to work.  There needs to be sustained joined up services to assist people with Long Covid who are at work to stay at work, through medical, biopsychosocial and workplace support and vocational rehabilitation.

Many employers have gone above-and-beyond to make sure their staff feel supported as the pandemic has unfolded, and this is essential for people with Long Covid who may benefit from slower graduated returns and ongoing accommodations due to their fluctuating symptoms.  Such support is the right thing to do after the pandemic but may also help organisations avoid talent leaving the workforce and even legal challenge.

We are particularly concerned about the impact of poor management support due to a lack of knowledge, skill and resources to effectively manage people with Long Covid.  Good line management of people with Long Covid is crucial. 

Employers have a duty of care to their staff and now more than ever, every employee with Long Covid needs to be treated with compassion, to be listened to and supported through difficulties that Long Covid presents with. 

As Long Covid is a new health issue, the patient perspective is particularly important e.g. with care taken on physical exertion until appropriate diagnostic tests have occurred.

The Council asks for evidence-based NHS services for people with Long Covid, across the nations of the UK that works with occupational and vocational rehabilitation specialists on return to work. 

The Council also wishes to ensure Long Covid is prevented, fundamentally by avoiding Covid-19 transmission. It notes the risk of workplace transmission at work.  The hierarchy of controls and effective risk assessments remain essential to keep the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 as low as possible.

Resources:

 

Remploy – Supporting your employees at work

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Returning to work toolkits for employers and occupational health professionals

Returning to work toolkits for employers and occupational health professionals

Managing the safe return to the workplace of millions of UK workers needs careful planning.

Our toolkits, produced in partnership with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Business in the Community (BITC), and Mind, the mental health charity, will help businesses plan to reopen shuttered workplaces.

Free toolkits

There are two toolkits: one for employers and one for occupational health professionals, who are supporting businesses make the workplaces covid-secure. You can download them for free.

Planning workers’ return

Here are five things any business needs to do before employees come back

  1. Contact workers about coming back to the workplace as far in advance of their expected return as you can
  2. Be prepared to have more than one conversation with your employee and use every contact to reassure them about the care you’re taking to open up the workplace
  3. Together with your employee, identify anything that might be an obstacle to their return. Obstacles can be personal, such as difficulty with childcare, practical, such as how they travel to the workplace, and even anxiety about catching covid-19.
  4. Agree with each member of staff a return to work plan which lists who will do what and when.
  5. If the obstacles identified are more than managers and HR departments can resolve, call in occupational health (OH) professionals. OH professionals support the well-being of workers, preventing ill-health, providing independent advice to organisations, facilitating steps to reduce sickness absence, and controlling infection risks.

Conversation starters

Not sure how to start conversations with your furloughed staff?  Here are some conversation starters you can use.

  • “How has life been?”
  • “Are you OK about coming back?”
  • “Do you feel safe coming back?”
  • “How we can make your job better?”
  • “Do you know who to talk with if any problems crop up?”

If someone has existing common health problems, questions could include

  • “Do you feel up to doing your usual job?”
  • “What parts of your job do you think you will find difficult and what can we change to help overcome the difficulties?”

Getting the UK back to work

Work is good for us and the country needs to get back to good, safe jobs, in which people are safe and feel supported. Our Returning to the workplace toolkits can help all kinds of business achieve this. Download them for free from the Resources section.

Vulnerability to COVID-19

Vulnerability to COVID-19

 

Dr Robin Cordell, a director of the Council for Work and Health, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians has this week brought our attention to the following piece within the President of the Royal College of Physicians of London most recent update to members of the Royal College.

 

In this update, Professor Andrew Goddard MD PRCP highlights the importance of assessing those who are more vulnerable should they be infected with COVID-19, so informing individual risk assessment by management as to how such people may be protected in their work.

 

We were very pleased that the President of the Royal College of Physicians has highlighted the essential work done by occupational health staff, and that he made a specific point of thanking occupational physicians (the Faculty of Occupational Medicine being a faculty of this Royal College) and so by extension all those supporting health and work at this time.

 

This is the key part of this message from the President of the Royal College of Physicians:

“The creation of a list of 1.8 million people as a ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ group who need ‘shielding’ from COVID-19 was both a mammoth task and one that all involved should be proud of. Risk, though, is not a binary thing. As our understanding of what makes people more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 improves, we may need to be a bit more flexible about who needs shielding and who does not. This will be especially true as the rest of the population comes out of lockdown and being shielded may be seen by some of the shielded as a curse rather than a blessing.

 

Such risk needs to take into account the susceptibility of an individual to infection and the severity of disease that results. Some of this will be defined by obvious parameters such as age, comorbidities, medications, ethnicity and sex. The risk will also depend on the exposure risk in the community (will we have a local COVID-19 level as we do for pollen, pollution and UV exposure?), occupation and means of commuting. Lastly, each of us has our own perception of what we will accept when it comes to risk. As we refine ‘shielding’ it will need to be as personalised and thought about as any shared decision we make about a treatment in clinic or on the ward.

 

The role of ethnicity remains something that many are rightly worried about. There are several pieces of work going on in both PHE and NHSE looking at this. Occupational medicine has a large role to play for us as physicians and the letter from Simon Stevens formally tasked trusts with risk assessing staff. Anne de Bono, president of our Faculty of Occupational Medicine, is working hard on this with colleagues, including the Society of Occupational Medicine. This is going to be a massive amount of work for an understaffed part of our workforce.

 

This week’s shout out therefore goes to them. Thank you to all our occupational physicians.”

 

 

WHU Consultation – Health is everyone’s business, proposals to reduce ill-health related job loss

WHU Consultation – Health is everyone’s business, proposals to reduce ill-health related job loss

Council for Work and Health members have actively contributed to the extensive research and debate resulting in this welcomed consultation initiative.  It is disappointing that many UK workers, particularly in small businesses, but even in large employers such as the NHS, have inconsistent access to good quality occupational health support when ill.  This exercise seeks to test ideas to enable more workers to get support when needed and hence reduce the numbers that face being unable to work due to resolvable issues. Council members will actively respond to this consultation and we urge as many as possible to contribute to this vital debate and support opportunity for change.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/health-is-everyones-business-proposals-to-reduce-ill-health-related-job-loss

Consultation link:

https://getinvolved.dwp.gov.uk/work-and-health/consultation/

 

No Time To Lose (IOSH Campaign)

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Did you know that worldwide at least 38,000 people die every year from mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos-related cancer?

These deaths cause so much heartbreak and suffering. They leave huge holes in families; ones that can never be filled. Asbestos fibres are invisible to the naked eye, therefore it is so important for people to know where asbestos can be found, so these deaths can be prevented.

Taking place tomorrow, (05 July), Action Mesothelioma Day, brings together patients, carers, families and local dignitaries in Britain for services of remembrance and hope, commemorating the thousands of lives lost to mesothelioma. The day is organised by No Time to Lose (NTTL) supporter Mesothelioma UK.

To mark this important day, we will be attending the service at Leicester Cathedral to support Mesothelioma UK and to exhibit our new co-branded pocket cards. We are also joining forces with the international Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization by sharing resources through its Know Asbestos campaign website.

You can get involved in Action Mesothelioma Day too by:

  • downloading and distributing our free resources, to raise awareness of the risks.
  • signing-up to our pledge (if you haven’t already), to capture the key actions your organisation does, or plans to do, to manage carcinogenic exposures at work. Once your pledge has been approved, we will send you an IOSH certificate demonstrating your commitment.
  • supporting NTTL by communicating the campaign through your communications channels
  • following @_NTTL on Twitter and retweeting our tweets to help spread the word.

Many thanks for your continued support. Together we can beat occupational cancer.