A new debate is arguably about to erupt in recruitment and employment equity circles, with an increasing number of people and companies asking if people living with HIV are going to be regarded as disabled – and therefore admissible as part of the Employment Equity Act that states that up to 2% of a company’s staff should be disabled.
Karen Geldenhuys, MD of IT recruitment company, Abacus Recruitment, which also has one of the country’s largest disabled recruitment divisons, says: ”This is becoming a burning issue as a number of companies have already asked us if people with HIV are regarded as disabled.
"For instance, if an HIV positive person suffers a stroke as a result of HIV complications, is that person classified as disabled? If so, if they are employed by a particular company, do they count towards that company gaining employment equity recognition?”
She says a growing number of companies had met, or are meeting, the affirmative action quota of the employment equity act – the next challenge is going to be the need for companies to employ a certain number of disabled people by 2009. This ruling relates to companies who employ more than 50 people or generate more than R5million per anum.
The Employment Equity Act (no 5 of 1998) – revised in 2006 -states that disabled people need to make up 2% of these companies’ workforce.
“Interestingly, there is no hard and fast standing on this question – and the government certainly hasn’t made any clear statement, or ruling, whether or not HIV sufferers, who suffer side-affects such as strokes, should be regarded as disabled”.
Geldenhuys said the problem is that the government has never made a firm stance on AIDS. Indeed, its AID policies have drawn severe criticism from many quarters around the globe.
"If the government did take a firm stance on HIV and AIDS it could perhaps give clearer guidelines in this regard, including rolling out proper policies and procedures to assist companies when it comes to the question of how to classify people suffering with the virus. Right now there are lots of question marks. This could be something of a Pandora’s Box.”