New Rights for Obese Employees


The 64 per cent of adults in Britain who are overweight or obese may soon have to be provided with larger office seats, lifts and priority parking by their employers after a European ruling that obesity is a disability.


The European Court was hearing a test case from Denmark.  A Danish local authority sacked a child minder on the grounds that he was unable to execute his duties because of his obesity – for example, he had been unable to tie a child’s shoe laces.


The European Court’s initial view – which is likely to be upheld – was that it was unlawful to discriminate against a person who is so obese that their size affects their work. The court held that if obesity had “reached such a degree that it plainly hinders participation in professional life, then this can be a disability”.


This would mean that such employees would be classified as disabled and would have protection under the Equality Act 2010 so that their employers cannot treat them less favourably because of their weight. Reasonable adjustments would have to be made to the workplace to accommodate them.


Simon Thomas, employment partner, said, “Employers may well find it difficult to establish if an overweight employee is in that category and as such may decide to err on the side of caution and provide special equipment to their employees more or less on demand.  A robust human resources policy will soon need to specifically address obesity”.


If you would like assistance in developing your human resources policy, please contact Simon Thomas on 01639 640164 or at