1 March 2013

Tanzania: State Seeks to Curb HIV/Aids Stigma At Work

Photo: SimplyAvoir
Tanzania is reviewing the Employment and Labour Act to employees living with HIV/AIDS get required services from their employers (file photo).

THE government is reviewing the Employment and Labour Relations Act to ensure, among other issues, that employers provide required services to their employees living with HIV/AIDS.

Already, there are directives requiring employers to provide certain services to their staff suffering from the deadly disease but reports have that some violate them by discriminating against and stigmatizing their staff. The Assistant Labour Commissioner in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr Josephat Lugakingira, said in Dar es Salaam that the move is aimed at holding such employers accountable.

"The Act among other things insists on employers respecting their employees living with the disease and provide them with necessary support including making sure they are not discriminated against," he said. on Thursday, the Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE) hosted a breakfast talk that brought together a number of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) from various organizations and companies who brainstormed on the problem.

Among them was Mr Nehemia Mchechu from the National Housing Corporation (NHC), who called upon employers particularly ATE to collaborate with CEOs through their roundtable to thoroughly discuss and act on the issue. He said normally workers spend about 70 per cent of their time in offices and workplaces therefore it was important that CEOs and employers engage fully in issues pertaining to awareness of HIV related matters.

"ATE should work with employers especially through CEO Roundtable, the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation and seek to promote and strengthen private sector efforts to maintain employees' health," he said. He challenged ATE to keep on providing platform for companies to leverage their resources more effectively and bring together critical mass of business action needed to mainstream HIV and other health related control activities in their major plans.

Stakeholders aired varied views on the matter and called for more concerted efforts to eliminate the vice in the work places. The challenge was posed to the Occupational and Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to extend regular inspection at workplaces to make sure employers comply with safety regulations including HIV/AIDS policy. ATE Vice Chairperson, Ms Zuhura Muro challenged OSHA to arrange visit to Small and Medium sized enterprises (SMEs) instead of concentrating with corporate or big companies only.

Responding to the challenge, OSHA CEO Dr Akwilina Kayumba said her unit was fighting hard to inspect as many companies as possible but shortage of workforce was letting it down. She said OSHA has introduced a number of measures including hiring private inspectors to conduct some inspections on its behalf while plans to employ its own inspectors is still on the drawing board.

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