Terence Burke initially experienced mild coronavirus symptoms but soon suffered from fatigue and headaches that left him unable to attend his job as a caretaker at Turning Point Scotland.
Image: Getty Images)
A caretaker has successfully claimed that long Covid is a disability in what could prove to be a landmark tribunal ruling.
Terence Burke is believed to be the first person in Britain to have the condition recognized as a disability after he was given permission to being a case of disability discrimination against his former employer.
Mr Burke contracted coronavirus in November 2020 and despite experiencing “very mild” and flu-like” symptoms during the isolation period, he soon developed severe headaches and fatigue and did not return to work at Turning Point Scotland until he was sacked nine months later.
In its judgment – the first public case of its kind – the panel concluded that coronavirus had rendered him with “substantial and long-term” side effects.
The tribunal heard Mr Burke was signed off sick as he struggled to complete simple household chores and even missed a family funeral because of his extreme tiredness.
He was then sacked after he was left so exhausted he was unable to turn up for work for about nine months, the panel was told.
Following the conclusion of a preliminary case to determine if he was legally disabled, Mr Burke’s lawsuit against charity Turning Point Scotland can now proceed to a full hearing.
The tribunal heard he had worked as a caretaker for the charity since April 2001.
After Mr Burke and his wife contracted Covid, his fatigue developed to the point where he would need to lie down after getting dressed in the morning.
The tribunal – held remotely in Scotland – heard he was also experiencing joint pain in his arms, legs and shoulders together with a loss of appetite and lack of concentration.
The tribunal heard he did not feel well enough to socialise or attend important events such as his uncle’s funeral in December 2020 because of fatigue and headaches “which was very much out of character for him”.
In August 2021, Mr Burke was sacked on ill health grounds after he had not been to work for nine months, with sick notes being extended by his doctor throughout that period.
His dismissal letter read: “It is my view that you remain too ill to return to work and there appears to be nothing further we can do to adjust your duties or work environment that would make your return more likely.”
The tribunal heard that Mr Burke did not begin to feel better until January this year, although he still suffered from “continuing fatigue” and “flare up of joint pain”.
His daughter Tressa Burke, CEO of Glasgow Disability Alliance, told the tribunal her father was “fatigued for months”, had no appetite and lost weight.
She said he was unable to cook and recalled a conversation where he had said he was hoping to return to work in April 2021 but was then “zonked” and “exhausted for days after”.
Following several phone consultations with his GP, Mr Burke was diagnosed with “post-viral fatigue syndrome”.
The panel ruled that Mr Burke’s long Covid amounted to a disability under the Equality Act.
Employment Judge James Young ruled: “I consider that the relevant tests are met to meet the definition of disability.”
Mr Burke will now bring his claims of unfair dismissal, disability discrimination, age discrimination and failure to pay redundancy payments to a final tribunal hearing.