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Toolkit for Employers

Toolkits for Employers, Trades Unions and Positive People
The following Toolkits for Employers, Trades Unions and Positive People were originally produced by the Ensuring Positive Futures (EPF) employability programme for people living with HIV in the UK. EPF was funded through Equal (a European Social Fund initiative which operated from 2002 to 2007) and run by a partnership of organisations including HIV charities, businesses, government bodies and trades unions working together to support people living with HIV in the workplace.

Now the programme has finished, HIVsport has agreed to re-publish updated versions in order that the information and guidance may continue to be of benefit to others. HIVsport would like to acknowledge the six core HIV charities (National AIDS Trust, Oasis North London, Positive East, Positively Women, Terrence Higgins Trust and UK Coalition of People Living with HIV and AIDS) that contributed to the development of these Toolkits during the lifetime of the programme. Particular acknowledgment is given to Michael Laffan for creating the original documents.

Toolkit for Employers

Welcome to the Toolkit for Employers. The chances are that someone working in your organisation is living with HIV and unless they’ve disclosed the information, you could be completely unaware of their status.  

How to use this Toolkit
This Toolkit for Employers has everything you require from advice and support to training resources needed to develop innovative policies and procedures regarding HIV for employers to use in the workplace.

So why should you try to understand the issues around HIV in the workplace?

Since December 2005, HIV has been covered under the Disability Discrimination Act from the point of diagnosis. As an employer you now have a legal responsibility to support people living with HIV, as well as other disabilities in your place of business.This toolkit will help you understand what you need to know about HIV and the Disability Discrimination Act  (Section 1). This means that people living with HIV can’t be harassed or discriminated against in recruitment, employment terms and conditions, chances for promotion, transfer, training or other benefits.

You may also be obliged to make Reasonable Adjustments (Section 2) as it is an employer's duty to ensure that there is no unfair dismissal or less favourable treatment than that shown to others.

The Health and Safety Issues (Section 3) covered will explain the real facts about transmission risks in the workplace. 

There are many Confidentiality Issues (Section 4) regarding a person’s HIV status that you as an employer need to be aware of and address in the workplace in order to both ensure that you adhere to the law as well as being seen to be an exemplary employer. The vast majority of HIV positive workers do not disclose their status due to fears that the information is not kept confidential. 

Developing an HIV policy for the workplace (Section 5) tells you what you need to know about creating a new policy should you want to. However, it’s not always necessary to have an HIV specific policy. This Employer’s Toolkit explains how you can insert information dealing with HIV into an existing policy on disability, equal opportunities etc.

The remaining section in this Toolkit for Employers will be useful if you are interested in Educating your Workforce (Section 6) about HIV awareness as a way to challenge HIV related stigma and discrimination and ensuring the workplace is a safe, happy and productive environment for all employees.

 The Business Case for Employing People Living with HIV: 

  • The majority of people living with HIV in the UK are of working age.
  • 76% of those diagnosed with HIV are between the ages of 15 and 39, with skills and talents necessary for the workplace whether they are an existing or a potential employee.
  • With improvements in medication HIV doesn’t necessarily lead to AIDS.  The majority of people with the virus will go on to lead long, productive lives.
  • As an employer it’s important to be aware of the facts regarding HIV…what it is, how it is and isn’t transmitted. This will ensure you support people living with the virus in your workforce and can deal with any misinformation you may come across.
  • It’s important that you address the issue of discrimination at work against people with HIV.  This can be tackled by training, changing workplace policies dealing with HIV and including protection for people living with the virus.
  • Many people, including employers, assume that people with HIV take more sick days than others.  This is not the case.
  • A survey carried out by Barclays Bank reviewing sickness absence over a 2 year period found that disabled people, on average, took 8 days off compared to the 10 taken by non-disabled people.
  • Discrimination against HIV positive applicants/employees cannot be justified by misconceptions and it is illegal.
  • Employers who fail to take their responsibility seriously can face expensive legal action. 

"HIV affects all of us personally, either because individual staff or family members have HIV or because we experience this impact on colleagues and programme partners. 

"We are also acutely aware that all of us are vulnerable to the virus and its effects. CAFOD has made HIV a priority concern since 1986. CAFOD believes that all staff should feel confident and competent in responding to the challenges posed by HIV in our professional and personal lives and should be supported to do so. 

"HIV forms an integral part of the induction programme for new staff and is a core component of ongoing learning, training and support initiatives for CAFOD staff in all countries." 

Ann Smith, HIV Corporate Strategist, CAFOD


Section 1 - HIV and the Disability Discrimination Act

Were you aware that as from December 2005 the DDA was extended to protect people living with HIV from the point of diagnosis?  

This means that people living with HIV are protected from discrimination at work and can safely ask for ‘reasonable adjustments’ if they need them.

 "The Metropolitan Police Service believes everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. We have worked hard to ensure that all our staff have the chance to excel no matter what their HIV status is and want to be an employer of choice. We are proud to have an HIV Policy which is considered best practice by other police forces. We educate our frontline staff to ensure that members of the public who are living with HIV are dealt with professionally and without prejudice."

Amanda Gutierrez-Cooper, Metropolitan Police 
Diversity & Citizen Focus Directorate

What is a ‘reasonable adjustment’?
A reasonable adjustment is a change you need to make as an employer in order to meet your duties under the DDA.  These adjustments can be as simple as having the time and privacy in which to take medication.

The law has been designed so that you only have to make reasonable changes, but if you fail to do what is reasonable, a person with the virus could take legal action against you for treating them unfairly.  (See Section 2 - Reasonable Adjustments)

Let the DDA work for your business
The DDA isn’t a minefield; it’s actually there to help.  It doesn’t ask you to do anything that will put your business at risk.  You are not being asked to employ someone who is unsuitable for a specific job.

What you are being asked to do is to treat everyone with respect, treat them fairly and remove any unnecessary tension in the workplace.

There are very few jobs not open to someone living with HIV.  Though there are many people with the virus working successfully in the health service, there are limitations in certain fields such as midwifery or surgery.

Disclosure of a person’s HIV status is not a legal requirement and as an employer you should ensure that confidentiality around a person’s status is respected as failure to do so will contravene the Data Protection Act 1998. (See Section 4 - Confidentiality Issues)

Retaining an employee who is HIV positive could actually save you money.  Why?

  • Keeping staff means holding on to valuable experience and avoids the cost of training new people.
  • Small changes are often all that is required to meet your obligations under the DDA and these sometimes involve no extra costs.

You need to think about the changes that you, as an employer, should be implementing as part of your duties under the DDA.

By actively encouraging applications from people affected by HIV, as well as other disabilities, in your recruitment advertisements it will not only promote your company/business but will also show that you take your responsibilities under the DDA as an employer seriously.

You’ll be the one people want to work for.

You could consider not taking disciplinary action if an employee needs the time to make adjustments to treatments or any other reason directly relating to the person’s disability.

The DDA applies to all employers and everyone who provides a service to the public. The only exemption to this is the Armed Forces.

Section 2 - Reasonable Adjustments

What do you mean by ‘reasonable adjustments’?
The DDA states that discrimination occurs when an employer fails to comply with a duty to make reasonable adjustments because an employee is HIV positive.

This duty to make reasonable adjustments applies in two ways.  Firstly to the actual job undertaken, and secondly to the physical environment where they work.

This duty to provide reasonable adjustments extends to the recruitment of new employees and for promotion as well.  For example an employer needs to ensure ways of making the selection and interview process more accessible.

Examples of reasonable adjustments:

  • Employers have to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to alter features of the workplace that put people living with HIV at a substantial disadvantage.
  • An employee being diagnosed as HIV positive may initially require more support from both you as an employer as well as accessing outside support services.
  • The side effects of starting medication can be more acute in the early stages as the person affected by HIV gets used to the treatment.  Employers need to be mindful that during this period of adjustment the employee may require to attend hospital more frequently to monitor the effectiveness of the drug regime as well as experiencing side effects as the body gets used to the treatment.
  • With specific reference to HIV, some adjustments an employer can make include; providing a rest room for staff who suffer bouts of fatigue, providing a space where staff can take their medication in private and should they wish a designated fridge for staff to keep medication, flexibility in time off for hospital appointments. Employers should also ensure that they have a good provision for HIV in their equal opportunities policy, and making a clear statement in their policy about non-discrimination against people living with HIV. This should also be reflected in their recruitment processes and policies.

The adjustments for an HIV-positive employee will therefore be minor and in the majority of cases short-term.  They will relate to flexibility in the approach to work and hours, and to the physical working environment.

A short list of some reasonable adjustments that could be implemented:

  •  Flexible working hours
  • Job sharing
  • Sufficient or flexible breaks
  • Time off for doctor’s /hospital appointments
  • Access to a quiet area for breaks/take medication
  • Access to a canteen, kitchen or facilities for appropriate food at times required by combination therapy
  • Desk location near toilet facilities
  • It can even be as minor as providing a cushion for the employee
  • Provision of workplace policies that incorporate HIV 

Section 3 - Health and Safety Issues

HIV: the Facts about Transmission Risks in the Workplace
HIV-related discrimination often results from lack of knowledge and misconceptions about the transmission of HIV.  The workplace is no exception to pre-conceived ideas and “myths” about the routes of transmission of the virus.

There is a general assumption that everyone diagnosed as being HIV will go onto develop AIDS and one of the many misconceptions is that being HIV automatically seems to be associated with AIDS.  In fact there is a distinct difference between both HIV and AIDS. 

HIV is a virus that enters the body and slowly works to damage the cells of the immune system.  It can remain undetected for many years and this may depend on the general health of the individual or other factors.  It may produce some flu like symptoms or there may be no symptoms at all until the immune system sustains damage.

AIDS is not one condition, but a variety of serious illnesses caused as a result of the damage HIV has done to the immune system. With treatment, AIDS is no longer an inevitable result of an HIV infection.

How does HIV transmission occur?
HIV is a fragile virus, which can only survive in a limited range of conditions. It can only enter the body through naturally moist places and cannot penetrate unbroken skin. Prevention therefore involves ensuring that there is a barrier to the virus, for example condoms.

 HIV infection cannot occur in the following circumstances:

  • There is no danger in working with someone who is HIV positive.  You cannot become infected through everyday work activities
  • HIV cannot be contracted through sharing a keyboard, telephones, shaking hands or sharing tools or stationery, through kissing, drinking from the same glass, sharing food or using the same toilet or washing facilities.
  • Mosquitoes or other insect bites.
  • It cannot be spread by touch or through air and water, or by coughing and sneezing.
  • The virus cannot be passed on by people who are HIV positive handling or preparing food.
  • Occupational HIV transmission may be an issue within certain posts within healthcare i.e. invasive and exposure prone procedures such as surgery or midwifery and the risk amongst health workers not involved in these procedures is negligible.

HIV is only spread through limited routes:

  • Sexually, through unprotected intercourse with an infected partner, male or female, gay or straight, where semen, vaginal secretions or blood enter the body.  Condoms are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV.
  • Sharing needles and /or syringes, (primarily for drug injection) with someone who is HIV positive.  All blood used for transfusions in the UK has been screened for HIV since 1986, and blood products are treated to destroy the virus.  There is no risk in giving blood in the UK.
  • From an infected mother to her newborn baby, a pregnant woman may transmit the virus to her baby before or during birth, or HIV can be passed on during breastfeeding.  However, due to early medical intervention and education around HIV and pregnancy the rate of newly born babies diagnosed as HIV in the UK is now less than 1%. 

Section 4 - Confidentiality Issues

The vast majority of HIV positive workers do not disclose their status due to fears that the information is not kept confidential.  There are therefore many issues around confidentiality regarding a person’s HIV status that you as an employer need to be aware of and address in the workplace in order to both ensure that you adhere to the law as well as being seen to be an exemplary employer:

  • Disclosure of HIV status is not a legal requirement and an HIV positive employee does not have to disclose their HIV status.
  • Selective disclosure is recommended and should be made to HR, occupational health, the line manager or whoever it is felt is most appropriate to be entrusted with the information.
  • Because HIV is now included in the DDA, disclosure can enable an employee who is HIV positive to exercise their rights under the DDA and for you as an employer to be able to make reasonable adjustments if required.
  • As an employer you should be aware that if an employee chooses to disclose their status that under the Data Protection Act 1998, you have a legal duty to safeguard the confidentiality of job applicant/employee’s personal and medical information.
  • By being seen to have good workplace policies in place that support people with HIV you can ensure that your employers will have more confidence in choosing to disclose their status as there are good reasons to help to create a workplace climate where disclosure becomes a realistic option for HIV positive workers.

Ultimately the choice about whether to tell others about their HIV status belongs to individuals.  But there may be good reasons to disclose to others on a ‘need to know’ basis.  This makes it especially important to ensure that confidentiality is respected where disclosures are made.

Section 5 - Developing an HIV policy for the workplace

As an employer HIV is your business.  As more and more people are living and working with HIV, you are highly likely to come across an employee living with the virus. 

76% of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK are between the ages of 15 and 39 (source:  Health Protection Agency)[SB76], those in this age bracket are your potential employees.

HIV related discrimination is a workplace issue.  As an informed employer you, yourself, can contribute to challenging prejudice and ignorance.

Dislodge unnecessary fear in your business by ensuring that your policies adequately cover and provide for all the issues surrounding HIV. 

Why do you need an HIV policy?

  • If you deal with HIV in the appropriate way you’ll retain good staff.

The new amendments to the Employment regulations of Disability (See Section 1 - HIV and the Disability Discrimination Act): 

  • Will have a significant impact on the issue of HIV in employment.
  • Without an appropriate policy on HIV there is a danger that you will not treat people living with, or affected by, fairly and as required by the law.
  • Having an HIV/AIDS policy is most likely to protect you from getting HIV-related discrimination complaints.
  • An HIV policy will ensure an equitable, fair and healthy working environment.
  • It would also send a message to all employees in your workforce that you treat disabled members of staff fairly.

 What should your HIV policy include?

  • Recognition of the need for complete confidentiality or privacy should an employee disclose their HIV status. 
  • A commitment to non-discrimination on the grounds of someone’s actual, or perceived, HIV status.
  • Your policy should expressly prohibit mandatory HIV testing.
  • It should also expressly prohibit unnecessary or intrusive questions relating to HIV or any other medical condition on application forms, medical questionnaires or job interviews.
  • The policy should recognise the potential need for reasonable adjustments to be made (such as flexible working hours for hospital appointments) as and when they become necessary.
  • The policy should make a commitment to raising awareness of the facts about HIV, including educational material and information about HIV transmission and Universal Medical Precautions.
  • The policy should be easily accessible to all employees.  Simply insert the information in the staff handbook, given to all new employees, along with existing workplace policies.

Should you have a separate HIV policy or integrate it into existing policies?
You do not need to have an HIV specific policy.  If you already have a policy on disability, equal opportunities etc, you can insert information dealing with HIV including the following key elements:

  • Principle of non-discrimination (both at the recruitment stage and during employment) on grounds of actual or perceived HIV status, and on the basis of association with an HIV positive employee.
  • Confidentiality and privacy.
  • Management of an HIV positive future, or current, employee.
  • General prohibition of mandatory HIV testing.
  • Information on how to get advice and information on HIV.

What help can I get to formulate policy?
HIVsport can offer support, advice and guidance. We are happy to take you through the formulation of new policies and updating existing ones.

Section 6 - Educating your workforce

HIVsport can provide workplace HIV awareness for all your staff.  Awareness is a key element in challenging HIV related stigma and discrimination and ensuring the workplace is a safe, happy and productive environment for all employees.

 How long will the training take?

  • Awareness seminars can be tailored to your requirements.  We suggest a minimum of 1 hour, but ideally a half-day session to give everyone a chance to discuss the issues and concerns.
  • Shorter sessions can be included at one of your regular staff meetings or as part of other diversity/disability programmes.
  • A member of HIVsport can discuss your needs and deliver a format for your organisation that is tailored to reflect your current HR policies and procedures.

How much will it cost?
HIVsport does not receive any Government funding and we therefore charge a fee for all awareness seminars/educational services. All fees and costs will be kept to minimum, are fully explained and are individually negotiated depending on the precise nature of your requirements. There will be no ‘hidden’ extras.

Target audience:
Awareness seminars are targeted at employers in both the private and public sectors. They provide invaluable information and guidance to HR and Personnel departments, Equality and Diversity teams, as well as managers and employees of organisations.

Educating your own staff about HIV awareness
If you would like to incorporate HIV awareness into your own internal courses on equality/disability issues or as a separate session within the workplace then HIVsport can provide support and resources you will require in order ensuring that you can deliver your own training around this issue.

Keep In Touch With HIVsport

HIVsport would like to thank
Durex for their support


Durex's vision is that of an HIV-free world.

We have an overriding commitment to sexual health and a strong track record of supporting initiatives to raise awareness of HIV prevention for all.

This is why we are proud to sponsor HIVsport in its effort to promote sexual health in the field of sport.

  Beer Goggles