Different organisations have differing views on what is the best approach, given the stigma surrounding Covid-19.
Many HR leaders are voicing concern about the stigma attached to Covid-19 and the unfair treatment and discrimination that may befall employees that test positve for the virus. With lockdown restrictions being reduced to level 3 from Monday onwards, there is sure to be an acceleration of infections that companies will have to contend with.
Some organisations have decided that, to minimise the potential for discriminatory behaviour, they will protect the identities of employees that test positive for the virus. That said, employees talk to one another and will always be able to figure out who has the virus, because companies will have to put people in quarantine and test people who have been in contact with infected individuals.
Belgotex executive director Jade Peters says leaders have to be mindful that they have an obligation to identify employees who tested positive because of the extensive tracking and tracing process that must follow a positive test.
“It will be a very big challenge to do this while attempting to protect the identity of such individuals,” says Jade
Jaguar Land Rover SA (JLRSA) head of HR Tanya Ramlagan Tanya Ramlagan says the stigma factor is a very real one but acknowledges that different workplace cultures, as well as individual employee's cultures, will have different approaches. She says that, at JLRSA,
they do have to submit Covid-19 submit reports to the global office. But the requirements allow them to keep identities confidential so they wil not be sharing that information with anyone other than the managing director, line manager and Tanya herself. Thereafter, JLRSA will allow the individual to decide whether they want to communicate this to the rest of the organisation.
“Legally, we have to respect the right to privacy of any individual that tests positive. They have to disclose their contacts, for the purpose of contact tracing, to the Department of Health if they contract the virus so that protects any team members they may have had contact with," says Tanya adding that they have also arranged one-on-one coaching sessions with each of the line managers to guide on how to start thinking about their approach to a situation where someone in their team contracts Covid-19.
“We ask each line manager, 'how will you allocate their work to other members of the team without disclosing their illness. How will you manage stigma if people do choose to declare that they have contracted their virus?’”