From education to employment

Self-reported long COVID and labour market outcomes, UK: 2022

long covid

Main points from ONS

In July 2022, 23.3% of people aged 16 to 64 years with self-reported long COVID (symptoms at least four weeks after a confirmed or suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) infection that could not be explained by something else) were economically inactive (not working and not looking for work), compared with 21.4% of those without self-reported long COVID.

Between July 2021 and July 2022, the inactivity rate among working-age people with self-reported long COVID grew by 3.8 percentage points, compared with 0.4 percentage points among working-age people without self-reported long COVID.

Among working-age people not in full-time education, the odds of inactivity (excluding retirement) for those reporting long COVID 30 to 39 weeks or 40 to 51 weeks after a first test-confirmed COVID-19 infection were 45.5% and 34.3% higher, respectively, compared with before infection; this was after adjusting for background rates of inactivity in the labour market.

The relationship between self-reported long COVID and inactivity (excluding retirement) was strongest for people aged 50 to 64 years, where the higher odds of inactivity compared with pre-infection peaked at a 71.2% increase among people reporting long COVID 30 to 39 weeks post-infection.

Compared with before a first test-confirmed COVID-19 infection, employed people with self-reported long COVID were more likely to experience long-term workplace absence (for example, through sickness) 18 to 29 weeks after infection, but not beyond this.

Among people aged 50 to 64 years who were in employment 12 to 20 weeks after a first test-confirmed COVID-19 infection, transition to retirement occurred at similar rates for participants with and without self-reported long COVID, at 69.1 and 68.4 retirements, respectively, per 1,000 people per year.

The full report can be read here.

Sector Response

Responding to new figures published this morning (Monday) on Long Covid by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: 

“Around two million people in the UK are living with Long Covid – more than the populations of Manchester and Birmingham combined.

“Economic inactivity is rising almost 10 times as fast for people with Long Covid than for those without the condition. And older workers are being hit the hardest.

“Ministers must ensure everyone with Long Covid is recognised as disabled under the Equality Act. This will give them the support they need to continue to do their jobs and formal protection under employment law.

“And Long Covid must also be recognised as an occupational disease. That would entitle employees to protection and compensation if they contracted the virus while working.

“It’s a scandal that more than two and a half years after the first lockdown, the workers who kept our country going through the pandemic have still been offered no support.”

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