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‘Another Unequal Burden’: Working with Long Covid

She has found some solace in online support groups that connect her with others who are trying to navigate recovery and career changes, she said.

“I drop a lot of balls all the time that I never used to,” said Ms. Bailey, whose work as a campaigns coordinator for a charity in London was not renewed last year after her contract ended. “I don’t really know where to go next. I can’t do the jobs I loved before.”

Some countries in Western Europe have robust policies to protect those with disabilities, said Philippa Dunne, one of the authors of a report published by the Solve Long Covid Initiative, a nonprofit research and advocacy group.

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In the United States, however, there are fewer protections. Since people who are unvaccinated may be at a higher risk for developing long Covid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, companies in regions with low vaccination rates, like the South, may have more worker shortages than those in regions with higher vaccination rates, Ms. Dunne said.

“It’s going to be another unequal burden,” Ms. Dunne said. “The South already has a much higher rate of people on disability than the Northeast and the Midwest. That also is going to be made worse.”

A major logistical hurdle in the United States for employees with long Covid is qualifying for unemployment benefits. There is no single test for diagnosing it, and it is only vaguely defined, with so much still unknown. That can make it harder for people to be diagnosed and gain access to disability benefits. It can also complicate responses from employers, who are still navigating how to handle coronavirus-related work issues, including the fraught issue of whether Covid vaccinations should be mandatory for workers.

Katie Brennan, an adviser for the Society for Human Resource Management, said employers must consider their legal obligations to employees under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. With F.M.L.A., eligible employees are entitled up to 12 weeks off, and state protections may also be in place, she said.

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