Labour dept on drive to end HIV discrimination at work

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pretoria - The Department of Labour (DoL) says the Revised Code of Good Practice on HIV and Aids, including tuberculosis, should further safeguard individuals from discrimination in the workplace based on their HIV status.

Addressing stakeholders in Polokwane from business, labour, government and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) during the department's employment equity (EE) road show in Limpopo, Niresh Singh, the DoL's deputy-director of policy development for EE, on Tuesday said the stigma around HIV and TB often led to unfair discrimination against those living with the illnesses.

"An employee with HIV may not be dismissed on the basis of their status. When that employee has become too ill to perform their current work, an employer is obliged to explore alternatives," Singh said.

The presentation of the Revised Code of Good Practice on HIV and Aids and Technical Assistance Guidelines (TAG) at the DoL's main centres around the country follows last year's consultations with stakeholders to elicit inputs from employers and various stakeholders -- with the assistance of the ILO -- to develop a set of guidelines and policies on how to deal with HIV/Aids and TB in the workplace.

The national road show was in Polokwane today. To date, workshops on this subject matter have been conducted in Johannesburg and Pretoria (Gauteng province), Cape Town (Western Cape), East London and Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape).

The department hopes this will foster a culture in the workplace that is not conducive to unfair discrimination, but rather promotes equal opportunities, fair treatment and safe working environments.

Singh said it was high time employers became more accommodative by adapting existing facilities to make them easily accessible to individuals with ill-health; re-organising workstations; adapting existing equipment; changing training; restructuring jobs so that non-essential functions are re-assigned and moreover, providing training and support for on HIV.

Employers, Singh said, must provide care and support to their employees and their dependents living with HIV and Aids related illnesses, and ensure that they have access to treatment to remain healthy and productive at work.

He said employers were obliged to keep information - including medical records and HIV status - private, and measures must be taken by employers to ensure that workplaces were safe by assuming that any employee may be potentially infected with HIV, and manage possible risks of HIV transmission through infection control measures.

The roads how will continue in Welkom (Free State) and Pietermaritzburg (KZN) on 4 September and proceed to Bloemfontein and Durban the following day.