Obese workers are ‘lazy’ and ‘unable to fulfil their roles’ and as a result are less likely to be hired, a new survey has revealed.
Almost half of 1,000 British companies questioned said they are less inclined to recruit an applicant after interview if they are obese or overweight.
Among the reasons given were that overweight workers ‘are unable to play a full role in the business’, ‘they’re lazy’, and ‘they wouldn’t be able to do the job required’, the research shows.
Beverley Sunderland, managing director, at Crosslands Employment Solicitors, who commissioned the research, said: ‘Our research shows that prejudiced attitudes towards hiring obese workers are rife among British employers.’
The findings come in the wake of a European court case brought by unions and lawyers on behalf of 25st childminder Karsten Kaltoft, 50, who claimed he was sacked by his local authority in Denmark in 2010 for being too fat.
WHAT IS YOUR BODY MASS INDEX?
Body Mass Index, calculated from a person’s weight and height, is accepted as a reliable indicator of obesity.
According to the World Health Organisation, the ideal BMI for most adults is between 18.5 and 24.9. If a person’s BMI is 25 to 29.9, they are classed as overweight.
At between 30 and 39.9 they are obese and 40 or over is very – or morbidly – obese.
Doctors say being overweight or obese can increase the risk of health problems, including heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
Earlier this year the European Court of Justice’s advocate general, Niilo Jaaskinen, who advises the court, suggested that very severe obesity – classified as a BMI of more than 40 – could be considered a disability.
But yesterday’s ruling does not state what level of obesity would be classed as ‘disabled’.
It stated: ‘It is for the national court to determine whether [an individual’s] obesity falls within the definition of ‘disability’.’
Ms Sunderland said following the case, ‘it appears on the face of it that the odds are against you getting a job if you are overweight’.
‘But the law is on your side, as discrimination law warns against making “stereotypical assumptions” at every stage of the recruitment process and this applies to both existing employees, or people applying for a job,’ she added.
Given the ruling at the European Courts of Justice, employers now have to find way to accommodate obese workers who fall within this definition of ‘disability’, while larger job applicants need to ensure they are not discriminated against, Ms Sunderland said.
Critics at the time warned it could encourage the overweight to avoid slimming down in the hope of securing a payout. Companies could also face millions of pounds of costs to alter offices and factories, including providing:
- Specialist furniture such as larger chairs
- Parking spaces next to the workplace
- Dietary advice to overweight staff
- Gym memberships
- Opportunities to work from home
The survey revealed 61 per cent of employers were worried about the potential costs to the business of accommodating the side effects of overweight staff.
Sixty-three per cent also cited a fear of being taken to court on grounds of discrimination, if the disability needs of obese workers were not met.
Just over a quarter (26 per cent) said they were less inclined to hire obese people due to their lack of awareness of the laws linked to employing overweight workers.
Yet the lack of understanding of the law could land employers in hot water, Ms Sunderland warned.
More than half of employers questioned were unaware that if an obese person tells an employer about their long-term conditions at interview and the company does not employ them, the applicant could try to claim disability discrimination on the basis their obesity prevented them being employed.