Tuberculosis should not affect employment status of patient: Central Government

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on September 26, 2019 Published on September 26, 2019

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Currently, there are an estimated 27 lakh new TB patients every year,

To address the stigma that an employee faces at a workplace after the affliction of Tuberculosis (TB), Ministry of Health and Ministry of Labour have designed a policy framework which proposes to safeguard employees.

Often affliction of TB, leads to the loss of jobs in the organised and unorganised sectors in India. In the policy, it has been proposed that irrespective of the disease status, the employers should continue to provide employment to the individuals, which will help them adhere to the treatment and prevent further transmission. Also, the policy emphasises that the employers should consider the rearrangement of working hours, opportunities for rest breaks, time-off for medical appointments, flexible sick leaves and the return-to-work arrangement.

Currently, there are an estimated 27 lakh new TB patients every year, according to the annual TB report released by the Ministry of Health on Wednesday.

World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2003 said that the oil and gas industries and plantations, mining industry, prisons, health centres and hospitals as well as businesses with large migrant force are at increased risk of TB. This is due to cramped settings and poor sanitation conditions in these places.

The national stakeholders consultation in India has also proposed inclusion of beedi making industry, brick kilns, stone crushing industry and textile (jute and cotton) industry and transport workers under high risk groups.

What does the policy state?

“In spirit of good corporate citizenship, employers and their organizations, should encourage fellow employers to contribute to the prevention of TB in the workplaces,” states the policy.

It further states, “There should be psycho-social support for employees who have TB, such as free treatment and services, identical salary during treatment or compensation for loss of income, free transport to health facilities, food support or other motivations to continue treatment. Appropriate provisions of leave and suitable changes at work will encourage an employee to complete the treatment.”

“Early identification of the workers and their families with a high probability of having active TB is the most important activity of case finding in a work place. Screening for TB should be voluntary and confidentiality should be ensured, the policy states.

The policy urges employers to take all measures to ensure proper ventilation, better and spacious workplaces, periodic checkups and regular awareness camps where there are high chances of TB infection.

It says that TB can negatively impact the work productivity in industrial set-ups through increased absenteeism and turnover of staff due to TB-associated morbidity and mortality. Most workers spend a majority of their waking hours at their places of work. In some situations, workers even live at their workplace. The need to introduce access to TB control services may be stronger in this setting than in any other.

In 2009, Ministry of Labour had already formulated a national policy on HIV/AIDS. Eventually, discrimination on the basis of a person having HIV has been legally banned in India. For TB, though there is no such law yet.

The current policy framework has been introduced at least sixteen years after the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) had recommended that a workplace with 20,000 employees should be considered for establishing a site for TB treatment.

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Published on September 26, 2019
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