A previous paper by Wellesley Institute on the healthcare experiences of people with long COVID in the Greater Toronto raised the importance of healthcare providers in supporting workers to access benefits, sick leave and income supports when needed. Reviews of qualitative research on long COVID have also identified financial hardship as a challenge for many people with long COVID.
Estimates from the US in 2022 suggest that of the 16 million working age adults with long COVID, between 2 and 4 million are not working due to their condition. The economic impact in that country has been estimated at as much as $200 billion per year. Despite these projections, research on the experiences of people with long COVID suggest that they are not receiving the support they need from employers. People living with long COVID have also reported limited workplace understanding of the impact of their symptoms in limiting their ability to work. At the same time, the ability to take time to rest or pace oneself during activities such as work has been identified as an important element of recovery from long COVID.
The policy implications of the findings presented in this report have been developed in a companion piece. This piece outlines specific actions to be taken to address long COVID work-related challenges. The general areas of recommended policy action relevant to work are as follows:
1. Mobilize knowledge to increase awareness of long COVID and how it impacts workers.
2. Develop implementable workplace plans to support workers with long COVID, including provision of worker-centered accommodations.
3. Increase access to paid short- and long-term sick leave for all workers.
4. Improve equitable access to workplace benefits that support symptom management and treatment for workers with long COVID, including mental health supports.