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  • Employers, who restrict a person’s right to work, based on their HIV status, could face sanctions under the proposed Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill.
  • It is imperative that discrimination and stigma against these persons be eliminated, as they pose no harm in the general work environment.
  • The JMA has partnered with the Ministry on a pilot project aimed at reducing the levels of discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS, who work in the local food services industry.

Employers, who restrict a person’s right to work, based on their HIV status, could face sanctions under the proposed Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill.

“All offences under the Bill will attract sanctions that include imprisonment or fines. Any work site, which does not put in place a response to HIV, will be in breach of the OSH Bill,” said Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier.

The Minister, who was addressing a breakfast meeting at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday, October 16, said that workers with HIV/AIDS, including those in the food industry, are able to work under normal circumstances.

He said it is imperative that discrimination and stigma against these persons be eliminated, as they pose no harm in the general work environment.

“In the food industry, food handlers, who have HIV, are not a threat to their workmates or to the products that they handle. They should not be restricted from working with foods or beverages or be restricted from using telephones, machinery, office equipment, toilets, showers, eating facilities or drinking fountains,” he stated.

The OSH Bill, which is being drafted, and is expected to be passed by April 2014, will set the groundwork for the protection for all workers in all spheres of economic activities, and will comprehensively address all occupational hazards.

Minister Kellier said that the Government is embarking on a rights-based approach in dealing with HIV in the workplace, aimed at reducing stigma and discrimination, establishing workplace policies and programmes, and promoting HIV prevention and education.

President, Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA), Brian Pengelley, who also addressed the breakfast meeting, said that tackling HIV in the workplace is necessary to protect the rights of all employees and to create a healthy working environment.

“HIV/AIDS is a problem that affects particularly the food service industry as there is a misconception that HIV can be transmitted through food. Sensitisation and public education have therefore become important in dispelling myths and allaying fears,” he said.

The meeting was organised by the Labour Ministry in collaboration with the JMA, and sought to increase awareness at the highest corporate level, about occupational safety and health issues.

The JMA has partnered with the Ministry on a pilot project aimed at reducing the levels of discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS, who work in the local food services industry.

An agreement for the project has been signed and approximately 15 companies are on board. They will participate in workshops and the training of personnel, as well as post notices against discrimination in their manufacturing entities and food outlets.