Managing Hepatitis at the Workplace

Transmission of hepatitis occurs when blood from someone with the virus enters the bloodstream of another person. The virus is not passed on through general day to day contact between people. Because of this, there is negligible risk in the workplace – except for certain sectors such as skin penetration services (tattooing, body piercing) and certain medical fields (those specifically involving ‘exposure prone procedures’).

Many employers routinely use pre-employment medical tests as part of their selection process for advertised jobs. These tests can be a valid and useful part of the selection process but employers are obliged to protect the privacy of applicants. Employers are also obliged not to use medical results to discriminate against individual applicants.

Some examples of misuse of medicals include:

  • Using medicals as a pre-interview culling process;
  • Asking jobseekers about past injuries such as back injuries, repetitive strain injuries;
  • Letting employees know the results of another employee’s medicals.

A pre-employment medical test should relate solely to the inherent responsibilities and duties of the advertised job. Any special physical attributes required for the job should be appropriate, reasonable and clearly spelled out.

Should medicals only assess current ability of a person to do the job and not try to predict future deterioration of health….??

In order not to misuse the tests, employers should ensure the doctor or person who is in charge of carrying out the medicals is fully aware of the anti-discrimination laws (where necessary).

Article 1 of the LAW ON PROTECTION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION’ says that; This Law shall regulate the protection against all forms of discrimination and shall contribute to its prevention.

Article 2 also clarifies the purpose of the law; The purpose of this Law is to ensure for every person the right to:

1. Quality before the law;

2. Equality of treatment and of opportunities for participation in the public life;

3. Effective protection against discrimination.

Therefore employers must also ensure that for applicants with a disability; only attributes relating to the essential duties of the job form part of the medical.

In Ghana, an as in other parts of the world, people living with chronic viral hepatitis have to visit the hospital regularly, which costs their employers thousands of cedis in medical bills and time away from the workplace. As a result, employments of many carriers are often terminated. But should this be the case..?? 

Is discrimination against someone who has hepatitis against the law..??

Employers should not prevent someone from getting a promotion or dismiss them because they have hepatitis. Employers also have a legal duty to provide employees with any special facilities or services they need to help them do the job, as long as it won’t cause the employer ‘unjustifiable hardship’.

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