SAA’s  HIV policy in contravention of the Employment Equity Act

South African Airways “is not too sure” whether it is presently carrying out pre-employment HIV testing on prospective cabin attendants.

According to a stipulation in the Employment Equity Act all employers need to get authorisation from the Labour Court to carry out pre-employment HIV testing.

SAA spokesperson Madelain Roscher said earlier this week that the airline had to do an HIV test in order to test a person’€™s blood count levels which she claimed assisted them in determining whether the person could receive a yellow fever vaccination.”

She said another reason for testing employees and potential employees for any medical conditions were to ensure that all employees were fit for the “inherent and rigorous aspects and requirements of the position”.

“The airline still lawfully reserves the right to test prospective employees for HIV as immuno-competence levels depend on the individual’€™s capability to receive yellow fever vaccines and other vaccines,” Roscher claimed.

Asked whether a person who applied for a job as cabin attendant today would be tested for HIV, Roscher said she was “not too sure”.

“Our HIV recruitment policy is under discussion and our legal counsel are finalising the details,” was all Roscher was prepared to say to direct questions on whether the airline was presently conducting pre-employment HIV testing.

But medical experts agree that there is currently not any well-founded evidence that the Yellow Fever inoculation accelerated HIV and that the vaccination is not contra-indicated for asymptomatic persons with HIV.

Roscher said in reaction to several queries regarding the airline’€™s AIDS policy that they were in the process of reviewing it “making it impossible for me to comment on any aspects”.

The latest move followed a Labour Court case in which the airline offered a man a R100 000 settlement for refusing to employ him because of his HIV status.

SAA admitted last month that excluding a man (identified as A) from a position as cabin attendant on the grounds of his HIV status was unjustifiable.

The airline refused A employment as a cabin attendant because he was HIV positive and could not, according to SAA, be inoculated against Yellow Fever.

A was not informed that he would be tested for HIV and if positive he would not get the job, although he had passed all medical and mental tests required for employment as a cabin attendant.

SAA said it should have obtained consent from the man to conduct an HIV test and should have given him counselling before and after the test.

Further, the airline admitted it should have taken steps to investigate the extent of the man’€™s immuno-competence.

Roscher also claimed that if an applicant was competent, “we would employ him/her” despite the person’€™s HIV/AIDS status

The AIDS Law Project confirmed that another client that they acted for last year underwent an experience similar to that of A. This case was also settled last year with SAA at the CCMA.

Another clients has since approached the ALP. This matter has been referred to the CCMA for conciliation (under the Labour Relations Act).

A fourth case will be heard on appeal by the Constitutional Court on August 9.

All four cases involved pre-employment testing prior to the passing of the Employment Equity Act.


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