Your rights at work

Many people living with HIV lead active working lives and don't encounter a work related issue because of their HIV status. However, if you do, the information below will help you understand your rights.

You can also take a look at our short basics guide: 'Your rights at work: fast facts for people living with HIV' [PDF - 82kB].

Are there any jobs I can't do because I have HIV?

In the vast majority of cases having HIV will not affect the type of job you can do. However, there are currently restrictions on people living with HIV joining the army, navy or air force.

There are also particular requirements if you wish to be a commercial pilot, air traffic controller or practice certain medical professions including midwifery, dentistry and some surgical procedures. For example to practice certain medical professions you have to have an undetectable viral load and be regularly monitored by your HIV and occupational health physician. The NAT website has some good information for health workers with HIV.

Do I have to tell my employer?

In the vast majority of cases, it is completely your choice whether or not you disclose your HIV status. Many people don’t disclose their status because they don’t regard it as relevant to their job.

While for almost all jobs there is no requirement for you to disclose you have HIV, a small number of professions do have particular requirements (as described above) and you will have to disclose or take a HIV test in order to meet those.

You might also choose to disclose you have HIV in order to ask for reasonable adjustments to be made for you at work (see below for more information).

What are my rights?

Under the Equality Act 2010, HIV is considered to be a disability. The Equality Act makes it illegal for you to be dismissed because of your HIV status.

You also have the right to ask for ‘reasonable adjustments’ to be made to remove barriers that, because of your HIV status, might make it more difficult for you to work. For example, you have the right to ask for time off to attend hospital or doctor’s appointments, flexibility in working hours or to work at home. However - employers are only bound to implement these if it is 'reasonable' for them to do so. It is also important to understand that in order to ask for reasonable adjustments of this kind, you will have to disclose to somebody at work that you have HIV.

What can I expect my employer to do?

Your employer must make the adjustments that you request unless the adjustments can be proved to be unreasonable. This is the case even if the organisation doesn't directly employ you - for instance if you are a contract employee or an apprentice.

Your employer should also keep your HIV status confidential unless they need help from an HR manager or other member of staff to implement the adjustments. However, explicit consent should be sought from you before your status is disclosed and only individuals who need to know should be told.

What counts as discrimination or harassment?

Discrimination is when a person is treated unfairly or disadvantaged because of their HIV status. For example if an employer refused to carry out reasonable adjustments for you they would be said to be discriminating against you.

Harassment at work is any unwanted behaviour related to your HIV status which either violates your dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. This could for example be written or verbal abuse, physical gestures, pranks or jokes related to you having HIV.

Moving jobs is usually a positive experience but some people are apprehensive about how their HIV status might affect them getting a new job.

Applying for a new job: Will I be asked about my health?

The Equality Act 2010 limits the sorts of health related questions an employer can ask before a job is offered to you. You should not be asked to fill in a health questionnaire as part of an application, or asked any health related questions during an interview other than optional questions about whether you require any reasonable adjustments on the day.

After a job offer has been made, there are a very limited number of occasions where an employer may be able to ask you about your health. For more information on the specifics of this please see the HIV + recruitment resource produced by the NAT.

Applying for a new job: Will my referees disclose my status?

If you have disclosed your HIV status to a referee, it is illegal for them to pass this information to your new employer without your permission.

What can I do if I'm treated unfairly?

It is not acceptable to be treated unfairly because you have HIV and if you think you have been the victim of discrimination or harassment there are a number of options available to you. Many disputes can be resolved through talking to the person or organisation concerned. If this doesn't work, then there are other ways to deal with the situation, ranging from raising a complaint or grievance to starting a court case.

For further information and support, see the suggestions at the end of this page.

Where can I get more information or support?

For more information and advice, you might wish to consult: