Guidelines for managers and employees

SW – 07/2021

The European Agency for Occupational Safety and Health has published guidelines about returning to work after a COVID-19 infection, which includes "long COVID-19" cases, and about organising the return processes for both managers and employees.

“Long COVID-19"

Even though COVID-19 has not yet been fully researched, it has already been shown that one in five affected people were still suffering from its symptoms four weeks later. The symptoms even lasted 12 weeks or longer in one in ten of those affected. The most common symptoms include extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle and joint pain, chest pains and coughing as well as anxiety, depression and other psychological problems.

Management support

Some of those affected will only be able to find their way back to work gradually. Support from the managers is important for a successful return. They should be available as contact persons and, together with those affected, look for solutions that make it possible to strike a balance between health and work.

In order to be able to support affected employees, managers should have kept in touch during the sickness period and also be open to conversations and maintain their support after they return. All available assistance should be used. For example, occupational health services or company doctors can help with any adjustments needed in the workplace, as can general or specific COVID-19 counselling services, assistance programmes or government measures.

Adjustments in the workplace

It is essential to prepare the return to work together with the person concerned and to look at each case separately. Adjustments in the workplace can help, which should cater for the separate case and include the specific symptoms and limitations as well as their effects. Individual recovery and re-entry plans will contribute to this. Any adjustments might also include changes to the working hours, the actual hours to be worked, work patterns as well as the workload. A temporary change of duties and tasks might also have to be considered.

Medical clearance before returning to work

Medical clearance prior to returning to work might be important in addition to joint return-to-work planning with the management for those affected and depending on the duties involved. If the work involves lifting heavy loads or other physical exertions, then the heart and lungs must be examined by a doctor before these activities can be resumed. Other examinations such as a vision test or a cognitive ability assessment might be needed if working in a safety-critical area is involved. Working restrictions might need to be re-evaluated for any pre-existing conditions that have been aggravated by COVID-19.

Both guidelines emphasise that support from the managers and joint preparations for the return, flexible adjustments to work and continued support after the return are important factors in the successful reintegration of employees infected by COVID-19.

You can find more information about the guidelines by clicking on the following Link.