NAT, the National Aids Trust, has published a report to coincide with 22nd World Aids Day earlier this month. The report reveals that one in five HIV sufferers have experienced discrimination in the workplace after revealing their HIV status.
The NAT report reveals that some HIV positive people have been dismissed from their jobs after revealing their status for minor reasons, such as minimal lateness or bad spelling, when their employer wanted to get rid of them due to their illness.
In addition, more than one in ten HIV sufferers have had their requests for flexible or adjusted working hours to attend clinic appointments refused by employers.
The NAT report showed that there is confusion amongst employees and employers alike when it comes to the employment law rights of HIV positive workers. Many feel they are unable to reveal their status for fear of discrimination, or they are uncertain at what point of the employment process they should reveal it.
Under employment law, discriminating against disabled people at work and during recruitment has been unlawful since 2005.
The new Equality Act 2010, which came into effect in October 2010, supersedes the Disability Discrimination Acts of 1995 and 2005. It builds on the protection offered to HIV positive people the moment they are diagnosed under the 2005 Act and gives them the right to ‘reasonable adjustments’, which means removing barriers that may make it more difficult for disabled people to perform their job.
Importantly, the Equality Act also prohibits the use of pre-employment health questionnaires before the offer of a job has been made. This prohibition is intended to reduce the opportunity for discrimination in the recruitment process.
Employers should be aware that dismissing an employee on the basis of their HIV status can lead to an automatically unfair dismissal claim in an employment tribunal.
Research by NAT has revealed that due to the medical advancements in treating and managing HIV, HIV positive people can work and generally take no more sick days than their HIV negative co-workers. 58% of the people living with HIV questioned said that HIV did not impact their working lives.
It is estimated that over 100,000 people in Britain are HIV positive.