HIV/AIDS in the Workplace
CODE OF PRACTICE ON HIV/AIDS & OTHER LIFE-THREATENING ILLNESSES IN THE WORKPLACE
The Social Partners of Barbados developed a Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and other Life-Threatening Illnesses in the Workplace to address several critical issues facing employers and employees in relation to HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses in the workplace.
The Social Partnership is tripartite in nature, involving the Government of Barbados, employers’ representatives and workers’ representatives. This body developed the Code of Practice recognizing the potential impact HIV/AIDS and other life threatening illnesses can have on the business environment. The Social Partners understand the importance of developing a working environment within organizations where persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS can continue to work with dignity and respect.
In the Code of Practice, guidelines are provided for employers to ensure that there is no discrimination in the workplace with respect to “job applications, hiring, upgrading, advancement, promotion, discharge, discipline, lay-offs, privileges of employment, compensation, training or other terms and conditions of employment.” For example, employees should not have to submit to HIV tests or disclose their HIV status as a requirement for application for employment or for continued employment.
The Code of Practice also states that “the employer shall, wherever possible, and on a case by case basis, facilitate those employees living with HIV or any other life threatening illness who desire to continue working.” The guidelines therefore encourage employers to provide reasonable accommodation for these employees, which can include flexible working hours, job restructuring or time off for medical treatment.
However, the code explains that employers have the right to satisfy himself/herself, if necessary through a fitness evaluation, that the employees living with HIV and other life threatening illnesses will be able to perform their duties in a safe and reliable manner. Employers also have the right to ask the employees known to have a life threatening illness to be medically evaluated if work-place associated problems arise. Such problems may be infrequent attendance or unsatisfactory work caused by mental, physical or emotional conditions. However, the employees must be assured of confidentiality and that the evaluation is part of the employers’ efforts to assist and support their employment.
Employers are encouraged to educate and sensitize their employees about HIV/AIDS and other life threatening illnesses. Therefore there should be emphasis placed on providing information about the transmission of these illnesses and on the responsibilities of employees which include:
- Learning all they can about HIV/AIDS and other life threatening illnesses;
- Adhering to procedures set in place to ensure their safety and the safety of their colleagues from exposure to blood and other bodily fluids;
- Treating all colleagues with dignity and respect despite their HIV/AIDS status or if they are afflicted with other life threatening illnesses.
In October, 2003, the Ministry of Labour hosted a seminar to raise awareness of the code of practice among managers in the private, public and informal sectors of the workforce and to encourage organizations to implement workplace policies on HIV/AIDS and other life threatening illnesses. Copies of the code were subsequently distributed to all attendees of the seminar and since then, the Ministry continues to disseminate this information to the public and private sector.
The Ministry encourages employers and employees alike to read and adopt the Social Partners’ Code of Practice. Interested persons can contact the Ministry of Labour to acquire a copy of the code.