To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the level of risk to employees of suffering from long covid due to a return to the workplace; if she will take steps to encourage workers to continue to work from home where possible; and what steps she is taking to ensure that workplaces encourage (a) high hygiene standards, (b) use of face coverings and (c) social distancing.
The Department of Health and Social Care is the policy lead for Long COVID and, as this is a relatively new condition, is working to further inform wider understanding across government. The Government is also keeping a watching brief on this through the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
In addition, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is keeping the potential implications of Long COVID under review and has proactively commissioned its own work to be better informed of the issue. HSE’s Chief Scientist and its health and occupational health experts are involved in wider discussions in this space and HSE is also in contact with various professional networks in order to keep abreast of continuing developments.
Throughout the pandemic, HSE has encouraged businesses to manage risks in order to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in workplaces; including through the provision of detailed guidance (https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/index.htm). This includes guidance on the importance of cleaning, hygiene and handwashing, providing adequate ventilation and social distancing.
Face coverings are a public health protection measure largely intended to help protect others. They are not classified as personal protective equipment (PPE) and are therefore not covered by health and safety legislation. HSE has a web page explaining the difference between face coverings and surgical face masks (https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/ppe-face-masks/face-coverings-and-face-masks.htm).