These days, most people living with HIV are able to continue working in their chosen career without HIV having much impact on their working life. This is due to effective treatment being available which means that most people with HIV should not become too ill to work.

If you are in good health, with your HIV being monitored closely and under control, then in most cases there’s no reason why you shouldn’t still continue with your chosen career and plan for your later life.

This is not the case for everyone though. HIV still makes some people too ill to work, whether because they were diagnosed late and at the stage where they already had AIDS defining illnesses, they have resistance to many of the available treatments or because of long term side effects of HIV treatment.

One of the issues you may be concerned about, or may have had to address in the past, is telling people at work about your HIV. You’ll find information about this in the section on Disclosing your HIV Status.

Your rights at work
There have been, and unfortunately still are, cases where people with HIV were discriminated against in the workplace. Some people have lost their jobs simply because they have HIV, and others have been overlooked for promotion or even refused a job in the first place because their potential employers discovered they had HIV.

However, everyone with diagnosed HIV infection is now protected in law from the moment of their diagnosis under the Equality Act 2010 (which replaced most of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in October 2010). This means that, apart from certain occupations such as surgery or dentistry, it is illegal for any employer or prospective employer to:

  • Sack you just because you have HIV
  • Turn you down for a job that you are qualified to do because you have HIV
  • Treat you unfairly with regard to redundancy, promotion and training opportunities because you have HIV
  • Fail to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace which would enable you to work
  • Harass or bully you in the workplace through words or actions because of your HIV

In short, the law means that you should not be treated any differently from anyone else just because you have HIV. If HIV does impact on your ability to work but you would still be able to do your job if your employer made reasonable adjustments to your workplace or working life (for example adjustments to your work time to enable you to attend clinic appointments, or to your workplace to enable you to work with any physical disability that your HIV may cause) then your employer is legally bound to make these adjustments.

However, the law only states that your employer is legally bound to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments [1], and your idea of what’s reasonable may differ from that of your employer. A larger employer may ‘reasonably’ be assumed to have the capacity to make adjustments that a smaller employer may not be able to make. If you are in a situation where your employer will not make adjustments that you consider to be reasonable, and that you feel they have the capacity to make, then you should seek legal advice.

If you are no longer able to do the job that you were employed to do, then your employer should try to find alternative work for you that you would be able to do. However, this will depend on whether there is any other work available that you could do and in no way is your employer legally bound to actually create alternative employment for you if you are unable to do your job because of ill health. If you are unable to work, and no reasonable adjustment can be made to your working time or workplace which would enable you to continue working, then your employer has the right to terminate your employment because you are no longer able to do your job. This would be the case with any illness, not just HIV. How they go about this will depend on individual employers’ policy on long-term absence due to ill health.

If your employer intends to terminate your employment with them then they must have satisfactory evidence that you are no longer able to do your job. Both you and your employer should seek medical advice. Your doctor should be able to give his or her opinion about whether you are able to continue working, and your employer should also ask a doctor to examine you on their behalf.

If you are unsure where you stand then find out from your employer what their policy on sickness is. You should have a signed contract with your employer which should state what conditions you were employed under. Any employment contract must abide by the law and so, even if you have signed your contract, if there is anything in your contract that goes against employment law then it cannot be used against you.

Employment rights advice
If you are unsure about your rights and need advice then a good place to start would be the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which was formed from the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission. These were merged into the new Commission in October 2007. The Commission has a statutory remit to promote and monitor human rights and to protect, enforce and promote equality across the seven ‘protected’ grounds - age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. The EHRC website has masses of information and advice about your employment rights and you can visit them at If you need expert information, advice and support on discrimination and human rights issues and the applicable law you can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 2pm on Saturday by calling 0808 800 0082. You can also visit their website at

In Northern Ireland, contact the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland via their website, or call their enquiry line on 028 90 500 600. .

You could also contact THT Direct and ask to speak to someone about your employment rights on 0808 802 1221.

Read more
1 Employment rights and the Equality Act 2010. Directgov (