The Ministry of Labour and Social Security, is working to have the National Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS tabled in Parliament in 2013.
The policy is a framework for action by the Government, employers, and workers to deal effectively with HIV/AIDS in places of employment.It is based on the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) principles on HIV/AIDS in the workplace.
It takes into consideration, the effects of HIV and AIDS on the most productive segment of the workforce (persons 15 to 49 years old), and acknowledges that effective prevention and management of the epidemic in and through the workplace, will benefit all national stakeholders.
“It is expected that this policy will also strengthen the legal framework for dealing with HIV and AIDS, and will ensure that mechanisms are in place to protect workers from stigma and discrimination,” said Labour Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier.
He told JIS News that the issue of HIV and AIDS in the workplace has been a growing concern of the Government. This, he said, is based on itssignificant impact on production. He pointed out that there are many persons with the disease, who are employed to both the private and public sectors, and these persons contribute significantly to national development.
“We recognize that the most critical segment of the workforce is mostly at risk, which drastically affects productivity,” he said.
Minister Kellier noted further that these persons often face stigma and discrimination, and there are challenges, as it relates to sensitizing the workforce that persons living with HIV and AIDS are entitled to equal fundamental rights.
He told JIS News that with the passing of the policy, persons will be required to take a non-discriminatory stance in relation to HIV and AIDS at the workplace, and startaccepting and employing persons, regardless of their status, and also respect their rights.
“It is important to note that while the Government is interested in HIV/AIDS prevention, we are equally concerned about ensuring the dignity of those affected and infected with the virus,” he said.
Highlighting the theme for 2012 World AIDS Day: ‘Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS-related Deaths,’the Labour Minister said it is an apt reminder and call for government, civil society, business leaders, non-governmental and faith-based organizations to re-commit to ending the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
He noted that life threatening illnesses, such as HIV and AIDS, will also be covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which is to be in place by the end of the first quarter of 2013. The legislation addresses improvements in workplace safety and health.
“We want to prepare employers and employees adequately for the pending OSHA, and the HIV and AIDS regulations to be appended to this Act, in an effort to protect the human rights of infected persons,” Minister Kellier said.
He informed that the Ministry has been carrying out sensitization exercises in both the public and private sectors island-wide, about how to deal effectively with HIV and AIDS as a workplace issue.