Fat is the new disabled

Fat is the new disabled

A European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision has today been handed down which sets out that those employees who are obese, can be protected under the Equality Act (Disability Discrimination).

The case concerned a Danish man who was sacked as a child minder as he was too fat. He has now won his case for discrimination and the judgement is binding on the UK.
The UK had its own case two years ago, but that only ruled that being too fat could be a protected characteristic if it was because of an underlying disability. The ECJ has gone further now, and if someone’s weight hinders them at work, they are protected.

As we write this update we can hear the collective sigh of despair from employers but the consequences for most should be limited.
It may mean that adjustments should be considered, such as larger chairs or parking spaces, but in the big scheme of things we suspect most employers would do this for a valued employee anyway.

The real impact is that employers will need to protect such employees from harassment, or mickey taking, from fellow workers.

We suggest a sensible, measured response is to simply add “Obesity” to your equal opportunities policy, and brief managers so that they are aware that if employees take the mick out of each other on the basis of size, it will be viewed by a tribunal as exactly the same as taking the mickey out of someone because they are from an ethnic minority, or gay.

Also, if you have an employee who is finding life difficult because of their size, you will need to think about reasonable adjustments.

One can only hope that Santa Claus loses some weight, or we will all have to enlarge our chimneys to avoid a claim from the portly red nose visitor.

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