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AfA’s Position Statement on Anti-Discrimination in the Workplace

Press Room

AfA’s Position Statement on Anti-Discrimination in the Workplace

World AIDS Day
1 December 2021

AfA Statement on an Anti-Discrimination in the Workplace Law

1. On 29 August 2021, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Government will enact new laws to formally enshrine the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices into statute. The TAFEP Guidelines are principally guided by five principles of Fair Employment Practices:

  • Recruit and select employees on the basis of merit (such as skills, experience, or ability to perform the job), regardless of age, race, gender, religion, marital status and family responsibilities, or disability.
  • Treat employees fairly and with respect and implement progressive human resource management systems.
  • Provide employees with equal opportunity to be considered for training and development based on their strengths and needs to help them achieve their full potential.
  • Reward employees fairly based on their ability, performance, contribution, and experience.
  • Abide by labour laws and adopt the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.

2. The World AIDS Day theme adopted by UNAIDS in 2021 is ‘End Inequalities, End AIDS, End Pandemics’. Despite major advances in HIV treatment and prevention, HIV related inequalities that perpetuate stigma and discrimination against Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) and key populations affected by HIV continue to pose a major barrier in accessing the latest HIV prevention, testing and treatment services.

3. Workplaces can play a crucial role to end discrimination against PLHIV in Singapore. HIV is an important yet under-appreciated workplace issue. Increasing awareness of HIV among employees and the acceptance of PLHIVs in the workplace must be part of a company’s wider framework of diversity and inclusion.

4. Discriminatory hiring practices such as unnecessary and inappropriate pre-employment HIV screening, unlawful termination, unjustified transfer to other work positions (side-tracking) and hindered promotion continue to plague PLHIV. There is no formal legislation to protect PLHIV against workplace discrimination based on their HIV status. The employment and industrial relations issues arising from HIV/AIDS at work are subject to contractual terms agreed between the employer and the employee, and the general legal regime established under common law and statutes such as the Employment Act and the Industrial Relations

5. Most insurance companies do not cover HIV/AIDS in medical benefits offered to employees. Screening for HIV/AIDS may also be required for insurance policies. This allows Human Resource to access confidential medical information when applications for insurance coverage are rejected based on the HIV result. This has repercussions on employment and exacerbates the stigma felt by PLHIV.

6. The challenge of being gainfully employed without the fear of discrimination because of HIV status must be solved if we are to effectively control HIV in Singapore. HIV infection is a chronic manageable condition and should not be a basis for discrimination. Workplaces must recognize that PLHIV who are on effective treatment can perform their work as well as any other employee. The fact is that PLHIV who are on anti-retroviral treatment and have suppressed or undetectable viral loads cannot transmit the virus to their sexual partners. Employers and business owners need to stay in touch with medical advances and update human resource policies and practices that relate to HIV/AIDS.

7. AfA welcomes the Government’s plans for an Anti-Discrimination Workplace Law in the workplace that would include age, race, religion, gender, marital status and family responsibilities, or disability. However, it does not go far enough.

8. We urge all employers including the Government to go a step further and make this law inclusive of HIV, other health conditions, disabilities, and stigmatised persons, particularly where they neither impact the individual’s ability to work, nor do they affect the wellbeing and health of the workplace and other workers. An inclusive Anti-discrimination Workplace Law will send a clear message that meritocracy, skills and work ethic are valued more than anything else. Such an Anti-Discrimination Workplace Law will go a long way to support our objective to eliminate HIV in Singapore.

About Action for AIDS
Formed in 1988, in response to the global and local spread of HIV infection, AfA is Singapore’s leading independent organization of HIV and sexual health experts and advocates.

[1] SNEF Guidelines on Managing HIV/AIDS at the Workplace