October 24, 2022 – As a leading disability insurance attorney in the United States, Frank Darras has seen first-hand the impact the coronavirus has had on employees and the challenges they face not only in dealing with the disease itself, but also in the workplace.
With referrals coming in from all over the country, Dras says he has a real-time view of the pandemic and the enormous obstacles faced by staff. COVID long Face trying to explain and prove their condition.
“It is terrifying to have a disease and a problem for which there is no cure yet,” says Darras, co-founder of the law firm DarrasLaw in Ontario, California. “Having your job and your family’s financial future hanging in the balance… is appalling for an employee.”
Already, experts predict that the economic fallout and multiplier effect of the prolonged COVID-19 virus could be trillions of dollars.
Matt Craven, MD, a partner at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, and author of the forthcoming report estimates that severe and prolonged COVID will cost the U.S. economy one billion productive days in 2022.
Meanwhile, there is still a lot about the long COVID that remains unclear. The CDC describes it as a “wide range of new, recurring, or persistent health problems” that occur at least 4 weeks after infection. in One large recent study Including 100,000 people in Scotland, one in 20 COVID patients said they had “never recovered” more than half a year after the onset of infection, while around 40% reported they had “only partially recovered”.
Sheryl Bates Harris, senior disability advocacy specialist at National Disability Rights Network.
Engaging and accommodating employees
Employees infected with the coronavirus generally fall into two categories: those with debilitating, long-term symptoms that prevent them from working altogether, and those with mild to moderate symptoms that allow them to remain productive in appropriate workplaces.
Employees may not realize they can ask for accommodations, experts say, while inexperienced employers may not know how to help, or what to do with an employee who may suddenly only be able to work 50%.
“In a situation where many industries are currently labor-restricted, the importance of maintaining the long-term employer-employee relationship is greater than ever,” says Craven, who is leading McKinsey’s public health response to COVID-19. “What flexibility can they offer so that they don’t permanently lose a factor that could be a huge asset to them in the long run?”
For employees with prolonged mild to moderate COVID symptoms, employers should provide a safe and supportive environment to openly discuss how they can help, advocates say. It is also important that you are educated about COVID for a long time.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are expected to provide “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities, but advocates encourage employers to set a positive example by having these conversations and listening to the needs of their employees regardless of their status under the disability law.
“You might hate giving away years of work experience and years of training that person had, simply because there’s a part of their job they can’t do or they now have health disabilities,” Bates Harris says.
Experts suggest that if an employee can’t walk long distances because he takes a breath or gets tired quickly, employers can offer teleworking as an option wherever possible, allowing the employee to work from home. They can ensure that the employee is equipped at home with the devices and tools they need to do their job well.
If an employee’s job does not allow them to work from home, the employer can reduce their physical exertion, make sure they get adequate or extra breaks, or give them more time to use inhalers and sprays for shortness of breath, for example. They can also provide individual mobility devices, such as electric scooters, so the employee can move around without exhausting themselves, says Bates-Harris.
Those with brain fog may prefer a quieter workspace. There are also apps that can help, including those that can help workers keep track of tasks and stay organized. Employers can also provide a shorter working day or set a more flexible work schedule, while maintaining the status of full-time employees.
“I don’t care that my family members come at 4 in the morning and work until 10 in the morning,” says Dras. “Whichever kind of flexible schedule is right for them, I want to make sure I’m flexible in providing access to my premises.”
A collaborative workplace environment and the use of shared tools and documents can help reduce interruptions if an employee is ill or absent. Zoom meetings that are recorded can also help employees catch up and stay in touch. The employee may ask for different responsibilities and tasks that are more appropriate to his state of health.
As the employer himself, Dras tried to provide these facilities, saying that it is an opportunity for employers to learn how to keep employees happy.
Legal right to go on vacation
Ultimately, the prolonged COVID will require employers to be more flexible, experts say. If a worker is fatigued from an intense week, they may need to take time off to recover or attend medical appointments. Bates noted that one of the biggest complaints her organization receives is calls about leave and attendance.
While every case is different, in the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act give many workers a number of protected rights, including unpaid sick leave. Those who work for a company with 50 or more employees or in a government or public agency for a minimum of 1,250 hours over a 12-month period may qualify for unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks per year for family and medical reasons.
The Leave Act protects an employee from dismissal for going on extended leave and requires employers to continue group health benefits during this period of absence.
Advocates say that if people have had Covid symptoms so long that they can’t work at all, they may be eligible for Social Disability Insurance benefits. But they caution that the qualifying process may not be quick or easy, and is exacerbated by the fact that many long-term COVID sufferers cannot work due to extreme fatigue and brain fog, which makes the physical process of applying even more difficult.
Reassess workplace policies
As many of the costs related to the pandemic shift away from government to individuals and the private sector, employers will need to decide what kind of workplace benefits and health coverage they offer, says Pooja Kumar, managing director at McKinsey who leads the company. Work on public health in the United States.
“What do the benefit structures look like? How do they match the known long-term impact of Covid?” she says, adding that it is not just about benefits and accommodation. “How can you continue to motivate the workforce when people are working at 80% for physiological reasons?”
Drers says employers should also have a COVID-19 safety plan in place and ensure that the company’s short- and long-term disability insurance benefits do not have restrictions on self-reported conditions — symptoms like pain and chronic fatigue that are difficult to verify with medical treatment. Tests but have been common among COVID patients for a long time. It’s something he’s done at his own company, and he suggests that employers seek guidance from a regional Occupational Safety and Health Administration office if needed.
Advocates say part-time employees shouldn’t be forgotten either. Employers can think about what they can do to help part-time employees meet the requirements to make them eligible for disability insurance.
While many of these facilities may cost money, advocates stress the long-term benefits.
“The organizational knowledge and experience that existing employees have far outstrips anything they would gain by hiring someone new off the street and training,” Bates Harris says. “Employers with experience hiring people with disabilities have long learned that the cost of onboarding an employee far outweighs the cost of hiring new employees.”
With less than 3 years of information on COVID-19, Craven also stresses the importance of being agile. “Create policies now but revisit them over time based on new information, how people use it, how they work with employees, and how they work for employers,” he says.
“The first version doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Resources for Employers
Employers can also access the Workplace Network, which is funded by the US Department of Labor. It’s a leading source of free, expert, and confidential advice on issues including the workplace and employment of people with disabilities.
It’s a resource that many employers don’t know about, says Bates Harris, “designed to keep people in the job and allow employers to retain employees for extended periods.”
Employers can also consult the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that deals with employment discrimination, or the Department of Labor’s website to learn more about their legal obligations.
“Honestly, as a business owner, I am responsible for [my employees]so I looked at it and said, “It’s just an investment in my people,” says Dares, who has a large percentage of employees who have been with the company for more than 20 years.
“I want people to retire with me. … I want them to be healthy and prosper.”