Long Covid teachers join forces to sue ministers

Published on 21 May 2024 at 19:39

Tuesday, 21 May 2024

About 85 teachers in the UK have expressed an interest in joining the action

Scores of teachers with “catastrophic” long Covid plan to launch a group legal challenge against the government, claiming pandemic policy failures led to them being infected at work.

But a top barrister representing medics in a similar case warned it would be difficult for teachers to prove they caught coronavirus in the classroom.

Long Covid Educators for Justice (LCEJ) wants compensation from the Department for Education for those who “lost their health, income and employment” after working on the frontline during the pandemic.

Founder Emily Mason said long Covid had been “catastrophic for people’s lives and careers”. Many had to leave the profession or take early retirement, leading to loss of income, she said.

“We were told to ‘go into schools, carry on keeping the country running, children have to be in school’. And we’re hung out to dry now when so many of us can’t work,” she said.

Teacher sickness absence skyrocketed by 56 per cent in the wake of the pandemic, DfE school workforce data for the 2021-2022 academic year previously revealed. 

More than 3.2 million working days were missed because of illness that year, up from around 2 million in pre-pandemic 2018-19.

Teachers show ‘highest likelihood’ of symptoms

It is not known how many teachers have long Covid.

But research published in the Occupational & Environmental Medicine journal in March last year found those working in teaching and education and social care “showed the highest likelihood of having long Covid symptoms”.

Mason added: “The policies and guidance schools were given weren’t enough to protect teachers, and schools weren’t given enough support to implement those policies.”

Mason said key failings included schools being kept open for too long at the start of the pandemic and that staff were advised not to wear face masks or personal protective equipment.

Office for National Statistics data last month estimated two million people in England and Scotland were experiencing self-reported long Covid – and three quarters of them said they were “adversely affected” daily.

Long-term symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, “brain fog” and heart palpitations, NHS guidance states.

The NASUWT union has been calling for long Covid to be legally recognised as a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

85 teachers interested in joining

Mason said she started the campaign after reading about a group litigation order (GLO) by healthcare workers blighted by long Covid which is currently going through the courts.

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