With the potential effect the mismanagement of HIV/AIDS can have on businesses both big and small, it's important that you have the correct policies in place on how you will deal with HIV/AIDS in your company. This is not only a moral issue, but Labour Law legislates that all companies have a working HIV/AIDS policy. So where do you begin?
Statistics show that SMEs are the hardest hit by HIV, with 10-40% of employees being HIV-positive. With that in mind, if you do not have an HIV/AIDS policy, it's time that you face the reality of the situation and find proactive ways of dealing with it, for your employees' sake and to protect the livelihood of your business.
The first step is to issue an HIV/AIDS Policy Statement.
What is a Policy Statement?
Your Policy Statement is not the actual HIV/AIDS policy (which contains the nitty gritty of your action plan), but simply serves a basic outline of the company's stance on HIV/AIDS and how it will be dealt with. This document must be put in a place where all employees can refer to it at any time, and should contain an introduction that discusses why your company is committed to HIV/AIDS.
Here are some points to consider when writing your policy statement:
- Non-discrimination: People with HIV or AIDS are entitled to the same rights, benefits, and opportunities as those with other serious or chronic illnesses, for example in relation to absenteeism or assessment. Through education and counselling, the company aims to prevent stigmatisation of those infected, and will not condone any form of discrimination.
- Fair employment: Employment practices comply with local laws and regulation and/or the practices of the company, which ever is greater, and where applicable. The company does not require HIV screening as part of pre-employment or general workplace physical examinations, except in specified circumstances, such as the screening of blood supplies for transfusion.
- Senior management commitment: Senior management unequivocally endorses non-discriminatory employment practices and education programs or information about HIV/AIDS.
- Confidentiality: The company will protect the confidentiality of employees' medical information. An employee who contracts HIV will have no obligation to inform the company but will be encouraged to seek guidance from medical and counseling providers. HIV testing that is carried out for clinical purposes should be performed with the appropriate pre- and post-test counseling; results will remain confidential. Voluntary testing will be approached the same way.
- Communication: The company will communicate policies and practices to employees in simple, clear, and unambiguous terms.
- Information and prevention: The company will provide employees with sensitive, accurate and up-to-date information about risk reduction in their personal lives. This will include providing workplace education addressing prevention, care and support; training on universal precautions as detailed by the World Health Organisation; and a regular and confidential access to condoms for all staff. The company will have in place and enforce a procedure for occupational blood exposure.
It's important to explain this statement to your employees, so they are clear on each point and how it affects them. Once your staff knows where you stand on the matter, they will be more confident to either disclose their status, so they can receive the appropriate help, or will better be able to support and motivate HIV-positive colleagues.
File Description: Below is a sample HIV/AIDS policy statement. You can download it and use it as a template, changing it so its relevant for your business. The file contains a one-page document in MS Word.
Attachment available for download: Sample HIV/AIDS Policy Statement
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