‘Article & Photograph from hwchamber.co.uk‘
Employers in Worcestershire need to act now to ensure they are looking after obese workers following a landmark legal ruling.
Sally Morris, one of the county’s leading employment lawyers, has issued the alert and says bosses must consider whether they need to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for affected staff now that obesity may be classed as a disability under discrimination rules.
The new EU ruling follows the case of Danish childminderKarstenKartoft, who alleged that he was sacked as a result of his obesity.
European judges ruled obesity was to be considered a disability if it ‘hinders the full and effective participation of the person on an equal basis with other workers’ when doing their job.
The ruling has been heavily criticised by campaigners because of the implications for employers who may face bills worth millions of pounds given the need where appropriate to consider specialist furniture such as bigger chairs, parking spaces close to the workplace, dietary advice, gym membership or opportunities to work from home.
Ms Morris, partner and head of employment at law firm mfg Solicitors, said: “The Equality Act 2010 protects against discrimination because of disability and employers know they have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to an individual’s work. But this recent case means it may not be necessary for an obese employee to point to a connected medical condition before they can be categorised as ‘disabled’ under the Act.
“Basically, that means the very fact that they are obese, regardless of whether it is a medical condition,means their boss may have to accommodate them the same as they would someone with another disability.
“Employershave to consider workplace obstacles and their employees’ health. They need to consider whether that person is showing signs of struggling at work, whether they have been on sick leave and or which reasonable adjustments will help them return to work. They also have to show they have considered any requests for adjustments.
“Campaigners aren’t happy with this ruling. But the law is the law and employers across Worcestershire need to take advice now to ensure they are not going to find themselves falling short.”