Do HIV-positive employees have to reveal their condition?

Disclosure is one of the main HIV-related issues in the workplace. Employees worry about breaches of confidentiality if they reveal their status to their line manager or HR/personnel officer.

HIV-positive employees do not have to reveal their HIV status. However, there may be advantages in doing so, for example in order to request reasonable adjustments under the laws against disability discrimination contained in the Equality Act 2010.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance Blood-borne viruses in the workplace (PDF, 104KB) says: "Generally, there is no legal obligation on employees to disclose they have a blood-borne virus (BBV) or to take a medical test for it. If an employee is known to have a BBV, this information is strictly confidential and must not be passed on to anyone else without the employee's permission."

AIDS charity NAM has useful guidance on the pros and cons of disclosing HIV status at work.

Where employees do disclose their HIV status, selective disclosure is recommended. It should be made to an HR/personnel officer, the occupational health team, their line manager or whoever it is felt is most appropriate to be entrusted with the information.

Employers have a legal duty to safeguard the confidentiality of job applicants' and employees' personal and medical information under the Data Protection Act 1998.

In addition, the Equality Act 2010 introduced a ban on pre-employment questions to job applicants about their health, including whether they have a disability and about their previous sickness absence record, before they are offered a role. This makes it unlawful for employers to ask questions about HIV before offering a person a job.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.