Members stories that highlight positive employment practices to those suffering from Long Covid
Grace Ferguson, Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board
A flexible and therapeutic phased return to work is important and must recognise that all individuals suffer Long Covid differently.
Grace is a CSP Regional Safety Rep and was a physiotherapist involved in community rehabilitation. Grace contracted Covid-19 in October 2020.
Grace was placed on sick leave after receiving a sick line from her GP. Her diagnosis was Long Covid. Initially, she was sleeping for 18 hours a day. At different times, she had anxiety, heart palpitations, fatigue, nausea and brain fog.
Diagnosis and support with condition – getting the appropriate diagnosis and treatment is crucial
Grace started a ‘Fatigue Diary’ in December 2020. This is commonly used in the treatment of chronic fatigue and other chronic health conditions. She also joined a Long Covid physio support group on Facebook.
“I diarised with colours: green, amber, red for levels of fatigue. If I had red weeks, I could relate that to tasks. Some cognitive tasks would wipe me out, conversely, some physical activities would not. I had to work out what actually constituted rest.”
“The Long Covid support group was helpful in identifying boom and bust cycles of behaviour / activity. Essentially, if I felt well one day, I had to be careful not to over exert myself the next day.”
After being diagnosed with Long Covid, Grace was in touch with her manager once a week. Her manager was very good at communications throughout her time off work.
“My manager was good at signposting and looking up guidelines. She did research into Long Covid on my behalf. When I was down, she sent me upbeat messages. She had her worker’s best interests at heart. There was no pressure to come back.”
Communication – good communication with management, a caring attitude and the willingness to be flexible is important
Whilst still off on sick leave in mid-January, Grace applied for a new post in outpatient amputee rehab. Her manager supported her through this process. Whilst her former job had involved a lot of lone-working and driving around, the new post was in a fixed location. This meant that her new work could make reasonable adjustments to assist her transition back to work with Long Covid. For example, there is a bed provided for Grace to rest during work hours.
“During the day, I am able to go for a lie down if I need it. I have access to a side room where I can take a nap or even just rest. My boss also provided me with a blanket, which I keep in my locker.”
Reasonable adjustments that acknowledge recovery is a process not an event
Grace experienced a flexible phased return to work. Her new post started in February 2021. Her first week back involved 8 hours split over two days. Grace still received full pay during this time using sick pay. For the first six weeks of returning to work, Grace used sick leave to do a phased return. From 4 weeks, she worked 10-3pm, with a Wednesday off. 16 hours a week of annual leave was used each week up to mid-June in order to achieve this. In June, Grace moved to flexi-working to enable her to start and finish flexibly according to how she feels day to day.