HIV testing should be voluntary, employers warned - White Paper notes there is no health reason for mandatory testing and screening
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
THE WHITE Paper for the national workplace policy on HIV/AIDS has been tabled in Parliament, further paving the way for the establishment of enforcement mechanisms to protect the rights of persons infected or affected by the illness.
The paper, which was laid on the table of the Senate on Friday, is intended to give legislative expression to an occupational safety and health act, which the Government says will soon be enacted.
According to the White Paper, which was approved by Cabinet last September, employers shall ensure that policies and procedures are in place to prevent testing and screening as a prerequisite for employment, continued employment, appointment to positions or promotions.
"These is no health reason for mandatory testing and screening for employment purposes. HIV testing should be carried out on a voluntary basis with pretest and post-test counselling as recommended by international, regional and national governing bodies in accordance with guidelines on HIV testing provided by the World Heath Organisation," the White Paper says.
It also dictates that employers should ensure that appropriate systems, including procedures, are in place that can be accessed by workers and their representatives in case of discrimination.
"These shall include, but not limited to, personnel policies such as grievance procedures, reasonable accommodation, and medical benefits for persons living with HIV," it adds.
Jamaica has an estimated HIV prevalence rate of 1.7 per cent or about 32,000 people. The Government has said HIV is a workplace issue and has outlined a raft of measures in the White Paper to protect the right of workers.
For instance, the paper says "the employer should respond to the HIV-positive worker's changing health by making reasonable accommodation in the employee's duties to work schedule and should take measures to reasonably accommodate the worker with AIDS-related illnesses."
"Workers have the right to continue to work for as long as they are able to perform their duties in accordance with performance standards," the paper says.
It adds: "When workers are unable to meet performance standards or their performance is significantly affected, they should be encouraged to take advantage of any relevant separation package provided by the organisation's policies or labour laws under such circumstances."