|Your Health and Safety at Work: A Collection of Modules - Aids and the Workplace (ILO, 1996, 84 p.)|
In many workplaces, labour and management have worked together to develop a joint policy on HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. If such a policy is developed, it should be circulated widely and all management and workers should understand it. The policy could be incorporated into existing contract language.
When developing HIV/AIDS-related policy and educational programmes for the workplace, employers and trade unions should utilize the expertise of any relevant non-governmental and community-based organizations. This type of collaboration can save time and effort by helping to share knowledge and procedures that are known to be effective.
Policy development and implementation is a dynamic process. Therefore, HIV/AIDS workplace policies should be:
· communicated to all concerned;
· continually reviewed in the light of the latest scientific information;
· monitored for their successful implementation;
· evaluated for their effectiveness.
The following are some recommended points for workplace policy for HIV/AIDS.
· Screening: Since HIV infection by itself does not affect a worker's ability to perform a job, and an infected person cannot transmit infection to co-workers from casual contact, employment or pre-employment testing or screening for HIV is unnecessary and should not be required. (Screening in this setting means either a direct method, such as the blood test, or an indirect method, such as asking a job applicant about his or her risk behaviours or previous blood tests for HIV)
· Confidentiality: Like all medical information, information on whether someone is infected with HIV or has AIDS must be kept confidential. Again, there is no risk of becoming infected from co-workers unless you have sexual intercourse or share needles with them.
· Informing employers: There should be no obligation for a worker to inform the employer about his or her HIV/AIDS status. An HIV-infected person does not normally pose a risk to others in the workplace.
· Work arrangements or assignments: Since being infected with HIV does not limit a person's ability to work, no changes in working arrangements are necessary. However, if a worker becomes impaired by illness related to HIV, reasonable alternative work arrangements should be made to help the worker stay at work. Ideally such job modifications might include: flexible work time, job sharing, more breaks, and working from the home if the worker wishes.
· Continuation of employment relationship: HIV infection is not a reason for terminating employment. People with HIV-related illnesses should be able to work as long as they are medically fit for available, appropriate work.
· Benefits: HIV-infected workers should receive standard work-related remuneration and allowances, including social security and social insurance benefits.
· Education: Because information and education are vital in the fight against AIDS, workers and their families should have access to information and educational programmes on HIV and AIDS free of charge. They should also have access to appropriate counselling and referral to other courses of assistance and information about HIV and AIDS.
· Protection of workers: Workers who are HIV-infected, or who are believed to be HIV-infected, must be protected from any discrimination by co-workers, unions or employers. Information and education are essential to help prevent prejudice against HIV-infected workers. There is no reason to fear people who are HIV-infected or have AIDS. They need support to help them with the physical and emotional difficulties they face.
· Workplace policy: Workers should be consulted by employers in the development and implementation of policy in relation to HIV infection and AIDS.
· First aid: In any situation requiring first aid in the workplace, precautions need to be taken to reduce the risk of transmitting bloodborne infections, including hepatitis B. These standard precautions will be equally effective against HIV infection.
· Training: Employers and unions should jointly establish initial and periodic training programmes for workers in jobs that either normally or occasionally place them at risk of exposure to HIV-infected materials.
· Follow the laws: In dealing with workers who have such chronic illnesses, the employer should follow all applicable laws and all relevant provisions of the union contract.
Points to remember about AIDS and the workplace policy issues
1. Labour and management can work together to develop a joint workplace policy on HIV/AIDS which could be incorporated into existing contract language.
2. Employers and trade unions should utilize the expertise of non-governmental and community-based organizations when developing such a policy.
3. Employment or pre-employment testing or screening for HIV/AIDS is unnecessary and should not be required.
4. Information on whether someone is infected with HIV or has AIDS must be kept confidential.
5. Workers should not be obligated to inform their employers about their HIV/AIDS status.
6. No changes in working arrangements are necessary for HIV-infected workers. Alternative work arrangements should be made to help a worker stay at work if he or she becomes impaired by illness related to HIV.
7. HIV infection is not a reason for terminating employment.
8. HIV-infected workers should receive all benefits to which they are entitled.
9. Information, educational programmes on HIV and AIDS, and counselling and appropriate referrals are vital in the fight against AIDS.
10. HIV-infected workers must be protected from any discrimination.
11. In any situation requiring first aid in the workplace, precautions need to be taken to decrease the risk of transmitting bloodborne infections.
12. Employers and unions should jointly establish initial and periodic training programmes for workers in jobs that place them at risk of exposure to HIV-infected materials.
13. In dealing with workers who have HIV or AIDS, employers should follow all applicable laws and all relevant provisions of the union contract.