Employee who caught covid two and a half weeks before dismissal was not disabled at the time
An employment tribunal has held in Quinn v Sense Scotland that an employee who caught covid two and half weeks before her dismissal did not have long covid and was not disabled at the time of her dismissal.
The claimant tested positive for covid on 11 July 2021 and subsequently experienced fatigue, shortness of breath, pain and discomfort, headaches and brain fog. These symptoms affected her everyday life and disrupted her sleep. She struggled with shopping and driving and stopped socialising and exercising. On 26 July she contacted her GP to arrange an appointment and on 27 July she was dismissed from her employment. She consulted with her GP during August, during which time she was deemed unfit to work, and on 12 September she was diagnosed with long covid and brought a direct disability claim.
The tribunal had to decide whether she was disabled at the time of her dismissal as a preliminary issue. The claimant argued that she had long covid, that covid and long covid are part of the same condition, and that other 50-year-old women with no underlying health conditions recovered more quickly than her after two weeks. It followed that it could have been predicted that she would experience long covid. The tribunal found that at the time of her dismissal she did not have long covid as she was not diagnosed with it until 6 weeks later. Also, although the impairment of covid had a substantial adverse effect on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, this effect had lasted only two and a half weeks at the relevant time and was not long term.
Take note: Although the claimant in this case was not found to be disabled as she did not have long covid as at the time of dismissal, it is possible for long covid to amount to a disability. In July's edition of hrlaw we discussed the case of Burke v Turning Point Scotland (the first time that a tribunal considered the issue of whether long covid can amount to a disability) where the claimant's long covid was found to render him disabled. As we pointed out at the time, it won't always be the case that long covid is found to be a disability, but it may amount to one in individual cases if it has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.