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Disability discrimination: Long Covid was not a disability

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By Ceri Fuller and Hilary Larter


Published 14 October 2022


An employee who caught Covid-19 two and a half weeks before her dismissal did not have long Covid when she was dismissed, and was not therefore protected by disability discrimination legislation at the time of her dismissal.


Mrs Quinn was employed by Sense Scotland ETS as its Head of People.  She tested positive for Covid-19 on 11 July 2021.  She experienced fatigue, shortness of breath, aches, pain and discomfort, headaches and brain fog.  These symptoms continued until and after the termination of her employment on 27 July 2021.  On 22 August 2021, her GP advised her that there was a risk of “long Covid”, and on 12 September 2021, she was diagnosed with long Covid.

Mrs Quinn claimed (among other things) that she had been subjected to direct disability discrimination.  The employment tribunal had to decide whether, at the date of her dismissal, she had been disabled.   

The employment tribunal considered that the impairment of long Covid had a substantial effect on her ability to carry out normal day to day activities (including exercise, socialising, driving and shopping).  However, at the time she was dismissed, she did not have long Covid: she was not diagnosed with long Covid until six weeks after her dismissal.  At the time of her dismissal, which was the relevant time, she had only suffered from Covid for two and a half weeks. The majority of people who contract Covid do not then suffer from long Covid.  It could not, therefore, be said that the risk of developing long Covid “could well happen”.   At the time of her dismissal Mrs Quinn had not therefore been disabled and so could not have suffered disability discrimination when she was dismissed.


This case should reassure employers that they do not need to assume that an employee is likely to be disabled when they are diagnosed with Covid.  However, long Covid may amount to a disability. Employers should act with caution where the facts of the case suggest that the employee may have developed long Covid at the point of dismissal or act of discrimination.

Mrs Gillian Quinn v Sense Scotland