New research has found that the majority of workers living with HIV are still reluctant to disclose their status to their current or potential employer for fear of facing discrimination.

Since 2005, employees living with HIV have been protected from discrimination in the workplace from the moment of diagnosis under the Disability Discrimination Act.

However, many employers and people living with HIV are still uncertain of what this change in legislation means.

Recent research by Jonathan Elford from City University, London, found only 31% of white gay men and 16% of non-white gay men living with HIV had told their employer they were HIV-positive.

By not disclosing, the majority of HIV-positive people are denying themselves the rights that the DDA entitles them to.

To help employers avoid unintentionally discriminating against people living with HIV during the recruitment process, the National AIDS Trust has launched “HIV and Recruitment,” a guide for employers and job applicants living with HIV.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust, comments:

“At present the workplace can be a very difficult environment for people living with HIV, as unfortunately discrimination and harassment are still very real concerns for many.

“By putting practices in place to avoid HIV-related discrimination in recruitment, employers can encourage applications from people living with HIV and benefit from the skills and talents of these individuals.”

The guide provides clear, practical advice to help ensure that the recruitment process is free from discrimination and unfair treatment.

It gives guidance to employers on how to ask questions about disability, sick leave, gaps in employment, and medical history in application forms and interviews.

The guide also explains what employers’ legal obligations are if an applicant discloses their HIV status, including data protection issues.

For job applicants the guide offers information on legal rights, advice about disclosing to employers, how to deal with difficult questions, and ways to respond to concerns about disability and health.

Recruitment is an area of particular concern to both people living with HIV and employers, as even standard recruitment practices used by employers can be discriminatory. Explaining the difficulties of applying for a job, Grace, a woman living with HIV, said:

“It is always in the back of your mind, should I tell my employer about my HIV status? There is a fear of how they will react to it. It may cost you your job, it may make you so uncomfortable it changes relationships.”

The National AIDS Trust is working to engage employers and people living with HIV through a range of resources, including materials produced by Saatchi and Saatchi, which include a report and an envelope that are impossible to open, with the strap line ‘It’s a struggle finding an opening when you’re HIV Positive’.

These resources are designed to make HR professionals aware of the barriers that people living with HIV face in recruitment and employment and are currently being trialled in a pilot scheme with key employers across the UK.

Copies of the Recruitment Guide, produced as part of the award winning Ensuring Positive Futures project, are available free of charge from the National AIDS Trust website at www.employment.nat.org.uk.