Support for employees with LONG COVID has become the second most common cause of early intervention and rehabilitation for Group Income Protection during 2021, Aviva has found.

Mental health continued to be the area where most support was required (52% of all rehabilitation cases were referred for this reason) in terms of group IP early intervention (preventing customers from sickness absence from work in the first place)  and rehabilitation (providing support to enable them to return to or remain in work.)

Long Covid (13%) was followed by support for musculo-skeletal (10%) and cancer (10%) – previously the most common supported conditions behind mental health. Neuro was 4% and ‘other’  conditions were included (11%.)

However, for individual income protection policies, long covid (12%) was only the fourth most common condition requiring support via individual income protection policies after mental health (30%), musculo-skeletal (26%), cancer (16%), neuro (6%) and other conditions (11%.)

Aviva introduced its specialist long covid income protection claims pathway in August 2020 for both individuals and group scheme members. The insurer offers bespoke support to customers depending on the severity of their symptoms – looking at individual needs on a case by case basis.

The majority (84%) of group income protection customers who received Aviva’s support for long-covid returned to or remained in work– and  88% of those who returned to work did within their policy’s deferred period – most commonly 26 weeks.

Meanwhile 91% of customers with individual income protection policies who received support for long- covid returned to work.

Overall 80% of employees supported by Aviva’s Group IP rehabilitation support, whatever the condition, either remained at or returned to work. And 78% of customers with individual income protection policies either remained at or returned to work.

Long Covid is the popular name given to Covid-19 symptoms that continue for weeks or months beyond the initial illness. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) defines post Covid-19 syndrome as symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID‑19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.

Symptoms of long covid have been identified as fatigue, breathlessness or shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and depression, heart palpitations, chest tightness or pain, joint or muscle pain, not being able to think straight or focus (‘brain fog’), change to sense of smell or taste and persistent cough.

Fran Bruce, managing director of protection at Aviva, said: “ Most people of working age will recover from Covid-19 within a few weeks but after three months some sufferers will continue to have symptoms. It is vital that these people are recognised as early as possible and given the appropriate rehabilitation support to improve their health and help them return to work.  The severity of Long Covid symptoms are often not related to the severity of the initial infection which makes early recognition and intervention even more important.

“Aviva has developed a dedicated rehabilitation team over many years and we are now in a strong position to support and advise any one recovering from the longer term affects of Covid-19. We have expertise in physical, mental, and occupational health, improving all elements of a person’s wellbeing and improving their chances of recovery and return to work.”