The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has issued Department Advisory No. 05 pertaining to the Guidelines for the Implementation of a Workplace Policy and Program on Hepatitis B.
Under the guidelines which took effect on January 1, 2010, it is mandatory for all private workplaces to have a policy on Hepatitis B and to implement a workplace program. The guidelines shall apply to all workplaces in the private sector including their supply chain.
The Hepatitis B workplace policy and program may be separate from or integrated into existing occupational safety and health policy and program of the establishment, such as the Family Welfare Program, Labor Management Cooperation Program or other related programs. Management and worker representatives are enjoined to collaborate in the development and implementation of said policy and program.
In organized workplaces, the policy and program shall be included as provisions of the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs).
The issuance of the guidelines comes on the heels amid the reality that Hepatitis B continues to be a major public health concern in the Philippines. Because it is transmitted through blood and body fluids, Hepatitis B is not spread through usual workplace activities. The job of market does not confer a risk for transmission of Hepatitis B. However, there are certain occupations which pose a higher risk of transmission of Hepatitis B because it involves exposure to potentially contaminated blood and body fluids. These would include occupations in the healthcare setting and other workers whose occupation involves the potential for exchange of bodily fluids.
Currently, many job applicants who are Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) positive are declared unfit to work without appropriate medical evaluation and counseling. These individuals are otherwise healthy and can be gainfully employed. Because the workplace is part of the larger community of Filipinos fighting the Hepatitis B epidemic epidemic, strategies need to be implemented to reduce the risk of transmission of Hepatitis B in the workplace and eliminate discrimination against Hepatitis B positive workers.