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Discrimination on grounds of HIV status outlawed

Employers are barred from discriminating against people because of their HIV status, in terms of the Labour Relations (HIV and AIDS) regulations.

Employers are barred from discriminating against people because of their HIV status, in terms of the Labour Relations (HIV and AIDS) regulations.

They are also obliged to provide employees with information on HIV and AIDS prevention.

They are not allowed to require a prospective employee to take an HIV test as a precondition for employment.

They may, however, require medical testing for fitness for work.

No employee may be compelled, directly or indirectly, to undergo any testing for HIV or to disclose his or her HIV status.

Should an employer discover an employee’s HIV status, he is not allowed to reveal this status to anyone else without the employee’s written permission, unless required to do so by some other law.

The same applies to anyone else who, in the course of his or her work, discovers information about an employee’s HIV status.

It is an offence for an employer to terminate the employment of an employee on the grounds of that employee’s HIV status alone.

The regulations also specify that no employee must be prejudiced in relation to promotion, transfer or, subject to any other law to the contrary, any training or other employee development programme or status or in any other way be discriminated against on the grounds of his or her HIV status alone.

Every employer is required to provide every employee with education and information relating to safe sex and risk reducing measures in relation to sexually transmitted diseases and to the acquiring, transmission and prevention of the spread of HIVand Aids.

This education and information must be provided during normal working hours.

It should be provided by people who have knowledge and expertise in matters relating to HIV and Aids and are able to communicate information with consistency and accuracy.

The design of the education programmes should be in accordance with guidelines approved by the relevant employer and employee organisations, in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and any other organisation with expertise in HIV and Aids-related matters.

Such training should be carried out at intervals agreed between the relevant employer and employee organisations.

Counselling facilities must also be provided for HIV and Aids patients for the benefit of every employee.

The HIV status of an employee must not affect his or her eligibility for any occupational or other benefit schemes provided for employees.

Where, in terms of any law, the eligibility of a person for any occupational or other benefit scheme is conditional upon an HIV or Aids test, the conditions attaching to HIV and Aids must be the same as those applicable in respect of comparable life threatening illnesses.

Where any HIV testing is necessary, the employer must ensure that the employee undergoes appropriate pre and post HIV test counselling.

Where an employee opts not to undergo HIV testing for the purposes of eligibility for benefits, no inferences concerning the HIV status of the employee may be drawn from this.

Where an employee does undergo HIV testing for the purposes of eligibility for benefits, the employer is not entitled to know the results of the test, unless the benefit scheme concerned is operated by the employer, in which case the employer may not divulge this information to anyone without the employee’s written consent, unless required to do so in terms of another law.

Any employee suffering from HIV or Aids should be subject to the same conditions relating to sick leave as those applicable to any other employee.

Where a person is employed in an occupation or the provision of services where there may be a risk of transmitting or acquiring HIV or Aids, the employer must provide appropriate training, together with clear and accurate information and guidelines on minimising the hazards of the spread of HIV or Aids and related communicable diseases.

The working conditions and procedures in such occupations must ensure optimal hygienic precautions to prevent the spread of HIV or Aids and related communicable diseases to employees and members of the public.

The employer is also required to issue personal protective devices, free of charge, to persons employed in occupations where there may be risk of transmitting or acquiring HIV or Aids.

He/she must cause the safety and efficacy of any equipment, devices and procedures, including first aid procedures or guidelines followed, to be reviewed.

Employers are also expected to provide employees with a copy of the regulations.

Talking Social Security is published weekly by the National Social Security Authority as a public service. There is also a weekly radio programme, PaMhepo neNssa/Emoyeni le NSSA, discussing social security issues at 6.50 pm every Thursday on Radio Zimbabwe and every Friday on National FM. There is another social security programme on Star FM on Wednesdays between 5.50 pm and 6 pm. Readers can e mail issues they would like dealt with in this column to mail@mhpr.co.zw or text them to 0772 307913. Those with individual queries should contact their local NSSA office or telephone NSSA on (04) 706517-8 or 706523 5.