14 September 2010
By Sanjeev Shivadekar
Being HIV positive is not a stigma and for that, an affected person cannot be robbed of his job: this is the message that state government is set to spread in offices with the unveiling of a HIVfriendly workplace policy.
Stating that the policy will be introduced in the next three months, state labour department secretary Kavita Gupta said, "We are finetuning a new rule that will ensure that no discrepancy is shown to any HIV–afflicted person at his workplace. It will provide employment and social security to these people." State labour minister Hasan Mushrif said, "The proposal is being considered following requests from several unions to the labour department to conduct HIV tests on workers. The final decision is, however, yet to be taken."
Nearly 2 crore labourers (excluding farm and domestic workers) are there in the state. According to the state labour department, once the policy comes in, all factories and establishments in the state will have to compulsorily adopt it for their employees. However, it will be the worker’s discretion if he/she wants to undergo an HIV test.
Those workers who opt for the HIV check–up and test positive can avail the benefit of the policy. "Those who do not turn up for the check–up will be deprived of the benefits," said a senior official from the department.
The guidelines for the establishments and factories are being formulated on the recommendations suggested by the International Labour Organisations.
Justifying the department’s move to introduce a HIV policy at work place, Gupta said, "The aim is not to get information on the number of HIV–afflicted labourers in the state. The objective is to provide financial stability (employment) and social security to thenm."
In a query on what would be the guidelines like–who would bear the medical expenses, what would be the punishment for errant establishments and factories, Gupta said, "Modalities are being worked out to resolve these issues."
Member of the state technical education board to provide skill employment and former IMC president M N Chaini welcomed the move. "But I am a bit sceptical. How will the government, with such little manpower, watch out for all the affected employees and see that they are not ill–treated at workplaces."
HC’s job order
While hearing a case in 2004, the Bombay high court said a person could not be barred from taking up a job solely on the grounds that he/she is HIV–affected. Hearing a petition filed by an HIV–positive woman that a insurance firm had refused to give her a job in place of her husband, Justice A P Shah and Justice S C Dharmadhikari directed the company to offer her a job with all benefits.
Who is a labourer?
Any person (except for the supervisor) who is employed with a private organisation, but not governed under the central or state government service rules is a labourer. In the supervisory category, if a person earns less than Rs 6,500, then also, he will be considered a labourer.