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Implications of Obesity Judgement For UK Employers

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A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice has found that in certain circumstances, obesity could constitute a disability and may afford a person protection under disability legislation.

The ruling - made in a case bought by an obese Danish male child-minder who said that he was sacked because of his weight - is a reminder for companies to examine their existing responsibilities to their staff, ensuring they are compliant with current legislation and au fait with the often complex issues regarding discrimination on the grounds of disability.

Responsibilities include:

  • Not treating disabled staff 'less favourably' than non-disabled staff, except where there is a clear rationale for this – e.g. rejecting a blind candidate for a driving job.
  • Having a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the workplace, working conditions, and the allocation of duties to assist disabled workers to stay in employment.

The requirement to implement such changes depends upon the nature and extent of the disability, the practicalities and costs involved, and the size and the financial resources of the organisation.

Obesity is a growing issue in the UK, which will undoubtedly lead to increased demands upon employers to accommodate obese workers. We strongly recommend that businesses seek expert advice now in order to ensure that they are compliant with all areas of disability legislation.

To discuss how this ruling could affect your business, please contact

Barry Warne on 01142521437 or email him at barrywarne@hlwkeeblehawson.co.uk

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