“This stigma [of HIV] is an unacceptable stain on our society and we have to wipe it out.” Theresa May 1st Dec 2016.
It was a shock when thirty years ago, as a personnel manager, I saw HIV on a deceased employee’s death certificate. At the time HIV and AIDS “enjoyed” similar press coverage to Brexit today and an HIV diagnosis was, as in this case, usually a death sentence.
Today, more than 70,000 people in the UK are HIV+ and many live full and active lives. HIV, diagnosed early, is highly manageable. It is the stigma of HIV that is a huge barrier to getting tested (and hence to an early diagnosis). To avoid risk of suspicions, small employers may not want to raise the profile of HIV by having a specific policy but there are a number o f points of which we need to be aware:
- Those with HIV+ are only required to disclose their status if it is relevant to the job being offered (and we shouldn’t ask if it isn’t). Unsuccessful applicants must not be asked at all.
- HIV+ applicants and employees are protected under the Equality Act, they are classed as disabled from the point of their diagnosis.
- Health matters are “sensitive data” (a special category) under the Data Protection Act, making details highly protected.
- Among other rights, reasonable adjustments will have to be made. For example, this may involve providing time off for treatment while still preserving confidentiality.
- Other employees do not have an automatic right to know.
- A breach of confidentiality could lead to a constructive dismissal claim.
- HIV+ employees and applicants are protected from harassment and discrimination under the aforementioned Equality Act. Here also I suggest constructive dismissal and injury-to-feelings claims could follow from any such occurrences.
- Education of employees needs to be addressed promptly in the case of anyone openly or accidentally disclosed (even if not by you as their employer) as having HIV.
There are publications on employee rights, disclosure and stigma here.