HIV / AIDS in the workplace – are your policies up to date?

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    Des Squire

    HIV / AIDS in the workplace
    Acknowledgement to the South African Labour Guide
    The Code of Good Practice on key aspects of HIV/AIDS and employment is an excellent guideline in assisting employers to compile such a policy.
    The policy should contain acknowledgement that HIV/AIDS will be treated like any other life-threatening disease.
    It should encourage employees to be tested on a voluntary basis, at company expense, and should encourage employees to disclose their HIV status in confidence to the employer.
    The policy must give assurances that confidentiality will be respected.
    Employers should arrange for education sessions for their employees to be educated on all the different tax rates of HIV/AIDS.
    The many myths that surround issues of HIV/AIDS are due only to a lack of education – employers will find it much easier to handle such issues in the workplace if the employees are properly educated on such matters.
    Employers should also ensure that selected staff are properly trained in how to handle employees who may be involved in an accident causing bleeding.
    It is essential that the first-aid staff know how to handle such situations to minimise the chances of infection to other people. There must be a proper infection control procedure in place to prevent people from being exposed to infection via the blood of an injured person or via blood products.
    Many employers introduce an Employee Assistance Programme, which can contain procedures for assisting employees with life-threatening diseases, and very importantly in terms of a certain percentage of the employee’s salary being paid to the employee for as long as 12 or 24 months after the employee is no longer able to work.
    Employers are encouraged to investigate the availability and advantages of the different programs available.
    Bear in mind that there is no obligation on any employer to provide such facilities – the decision is for the employer to make.
    A medical aid facility may be another answer – some medical aid facilities exclude all cover for HIV and AIDS related illnesses, others provide a limited cover, others provide hospital cover only and so on.
    Pension and Provident funds should be investigated – some such funds already provide facilities for early retirement based on ill health due to HIV and AIDS, others make no such provision at all except for a simple ill-health retirement benefit.
    Sick leave could become a problem. Generally, and infected the employee will use up his 30 day or 36 day entitlement very quickly – possibly even within the first six months of the leave cycle.
    Employers must decide how they are going to handle further sick leave requirement – perhaps a Group Benefit Scheme might be the answer, whereby say 75% of the employee’s wages is paid for a further 12 or 24 months of the year is exhausted his statutory sick leave entitlement.
    Employers can also consider allowing additional sick leave – for example, a certain number of days at 75% of wages, then a further allowance at 50% of wages, a final allowance at 25% of wages, after which the benefit falls away.
    AIDS assistance can be obtained from:
    • AIDS hotline : 011-7253009
    • SAIMR Aids Centre 011-7256551/2
    • AIDS information & education 011-7256710
    • Township AIDS project 011-9825810

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