The NHS has expanded the Covid-19 symptoms list this week to warn of nine other symptoms; and this now includes “headaches” and “feeling tired.”

This now means that each of the above, alone, are now officially recognised as COVID symptoms.

It is being widely reported that the axing of free lateral flow tests coupled with the expansion of the NHS symptom list, will cause a staff absence “free for all.”

The risks to employers are that workers can rely on a symptom on this official list and then decide whether or not they stay at home and for how long.  Another nightmare for business operations!

It is important for business owners and HR personnel to therefore be aware of the importance of the following:

Contracts of employment, employment law policies and procedures & staff handbooks

  • Documents should be compliant with law and drafted in a way to afford business protection.

  • Sickness absence management policies and procedures should clearly explain the various options for both management and employees.

  • Managers should have training on these documents and policies and so they are aware of the sensitivities of dealing with particular cases, COVID or otherwise.



  • Managers are often the first point of contact in the workplace for an employee or worker who is absent from work or notifying of sickness.

  • Line managers therefore have a key role to play in managing the employee or worker and the team within which they may work. They need to be given the tools and training to perform this role sensitively and effectively.

  • Managers are central to discussions about sickness absence, work adjustment, work retention and workload.

  • Line managers should also be encouraged to obtain an understanding of the illness and its likely effects on the employee or worker, including what adjustments (if any) might be considered.


HR function

  • HR and employment law support is crucial to managing staff absenteeism and sick leave, COVID or otherwise. Farleys’ Employment Law & HR team can support an existing HR function in your business or your business can outsource management of this aspect to us.

  • Sometimes, a person’s medical condition (and possibly long COVID) is likely to be a “disability” under the Equality Act 2010. This means the organisation must ensure it does not treat the person less favourably. In addition, your business is tasked with exploring reasonable adjustments, for example, changes to hours and working patterns, reallocating duties and granting time off for treatment. Individuals should be allowed to work as long as they wish, subject to medical advice and any health and safety factors.

  • A business continues to have a duty of care to the employee, so should ensure that they are supported, for example, by highlighting the availability of any employer-provided health services, such as occupational health.

  • If an individual is not able to work, or chooses not to continue in work, the HR function can facilitate discussions about exiting employment.


Occupational Health

  • Occupational health (OH) services have a vital role to play in supporting staff through illness or persistent or spurious sick leave and, crucially, in helping line managers and businesses to perform their duties.

  • If your business does not have an occupational health function, Farleys has contacts and can assist to facilitate this.

  • OH professionals can provide managers with information and support, including guidance on the employee’s condition and how it might affect work ability, advice on work adjustments and fitness for work.

Farleys Solicitors specialise in employment law & HR for businesses including staff absenteeism, contracts of employment, staff handbooks, disciplinaries, grievances, employee exits, settlement agreements, and Employment Tribunal claims or defence and representation. Contact the team today on 0845 287 0939, by email, or through the online chat below.