Zero discrimination day

Zero Discrimination Day is observed every year on 1st March. Although the day is universal in nature and aims to highlight issues related to discrimination in general, there is a particular focus on HIV, AIDS and other health-related issues.

The HIV virus attacks the immune system and weakens the body’s ability to fight infections. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection when the body can no longer fight certain infections and diseases. While there is no cure for HIV, there are treatments available that can alleviate symptoms and enable infected individuals to live relatively normal lives.

HIV is deemed to be a disability under the Equality Act 2010 from the point of diagnosis. An employee with HIV does not have to notify their employer of their diagnosis. If they do, then the employer must ensure this sensitive information is kept confidential and is only disclosed to others with the employee’s express consent.

Where an employer is aware that a particular employee has HIV, they must consider what reasonable adjustments they may need to make. The employer must also take care not to subject the employee to any detriment as a result of their medical condition as to do so could amount to disability discrimination.

Certain jobs might be off limits to an HIV positive employee, particularly types of work where there may be contact with blood or body fluids. Examples include work in health care and social services.. However, careful risk assessing any specific role would be fair and reasonable, so as to avoid making any discriminatory presumptions.

Discrimination does not occur in a vacuum. A December 2019 report by the Office of National Statistics on disability pay gaps in the UK found that in 2018 disabled workers faced a startling 12.2% pay gap compared to non-disabled workers.  The pay gap varied depending on the type of disability suffered. Workers who suffer from progressive illnesses such as HIV suffered a pay gap of 7.4%. This inequity has led to increased calls for pay gap reporting to be extended from gender to race and disability as well.

There is an ever growing body of evidence showing that increasing diversity and removing discrimination in an organisation increases profitability and innovation.  Further, there are links between increased diversity with stronger corporate governance and problem-solving. In short, the resilience and effectiveness of a business can often be directly connected to a diverse and inclusive environment. 

Successfully sustaining a culture where all employees thrive in an environment free from discrimination should be the aim of all businesses and those who have achieved that status, which is still too rare should be rightly proud to be leading the way in making the working world a better place for all. If you would like a soundboard on how to increase inclusivity and diversity in your business get in touch. It really could be the best step you could take in building a business fit for a sustainable future.

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