People with HIV

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2004 National Disabled Members' Conference
23 July 2004
Carried as Amended

Conference welcomes the government’s response to the report of the joint committee on the draft disability bill with its commitment to extend the Disability Discrimination Act to provide new anti-discrimination measures for people with HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis that will be implemented in December 2005.

We are pleased that these disabled people will no longer have to prove their disability status before they can challenge acts of discrimination on grounds of disability.

In particular we welcome the initiative to extend protection in employment and service provision to people with HIV. Global efforts to eliminate HIV and provide adequate treatment to people living with the disease have not had the success anticipated. Disabled members are committed to supporting these global efforts but feel that further initiatives need to be taken to support our members who may experience discrimination at work.

Members with HIV may already be eligible for protection from discrimination if they can prove they meet the definition as set out in the Act. Our branches need to be aware that they will shortly have additional members to represent once HIV disability status is enshrined in law.

Conference agrees that branches should be made aware that this new right might have a particular impact on the rights of some black workers especially those from southern and western Africa. These workers may have migrated to this country in search of work and other opportunities. However, many have found themselves employed in exploitative conditions particularly in privatised public services where there is evidence of disproportionately higher rates of work-related injury, poor trade union organisation and a poor record on equality actions.

For those workers with HIV or others who experience disability discrimination the situation is more grave. Inadequate and imposed company policies and procedures may put these workers jobs at risk as a result of lack of staff disability equality training, absence of disability leave agreements, and failure to make necessary adjustments to the workplace environments or procedures. These examples are all indicators that these workers’ rights are fragile and job security will have to be fought for. They also illustrate how easily employers have opportunities to treat these workers less favourably.

We welcome guidance from the Health and Safety Executive regarding arrangements for new and expectant mothers at work and believe that the advice should be revised to take account of proposed changes to the Disability Discrimination Act.

For the first time in Britain’s legal history, women with HIV will, as of right, soon be afforded protection from disability discrimination at work. Branches should be aware of the opportunity to negotiate collective agreements to support the rights of women at work and an end to disability discrimination, and use this issue as an important organising and recruitment tool. Issues for consideration include:

a)facilities for nursing mothers with HIV may need to be sensitive to privacy and confidentiality about their disability status;

b)mothers of children with HIV may have difficulty negotiating the right to time of work for treatment for their disabled children;

c)employer policies to address disability harassment may need to be broadened to take account of disabled women’s HIV status.

Conference instructs the National Disabled Members’ Committee to work with the National Black Members’ Committee, the National Women’s Committee, the International Committee, and the National Health and Safety Committee to:

1)produce guidance for branches that alerts them to the changes from December 2005 to the definition of a disabled person under the Disability Discrimination Act;

2)revise existing guidance regarding HIV to contain a disability perspective that relates to bogus health and safety arguments being used by exploitative employers;

3)issue guidance about negotiating collective agreements that enable members to be absent from work for treatment for HIV and receive appropriate support to remove physical and procedural barriers including practices that may expose members disability status;

4)ensure adequate facilities are in place for members with HIV to be active in the union’s activities;

5)produce information for branches to use in recruitment initiatives;

6)request the TUC includes information about new rights for people with HIV in its international development matters newsletter.

7)raise the matter of nursing mothers formally with the Health and Safety Commission.