fatman-new-jpg5612-170x170Employers overwhelmingly disagree with a legal opinion that severe obesity should be treated as a disability, with many saying they will not provide workplace adjustments.

Last month the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) suggested in the case involving a Danish childminder that morbid obesity may amount to a disability under the Equality Act.

The poll carried out by law firm Pennington Manches found that there was likely to be little support for the recent Advocate General opinion delivered by AG Jääskinen in Luxembourg, as 98% of employers did not agree that obese workers should be protected by disability law.

Nine out of ten (89%) respondents said they did not currently make workplace adjustments for obese or overweight workers.

And despite this current lack of protection, over three-quarters (79%) said they would not have to adjust their ordinary working practices if obese or overweight employees were granted protection under the new law.

The poll follows articles published by the law firm on the ruling offering opposing views from lawyers at the company.

Lawyer Tom Walker set out that while disability should not enjoy all the protections of the law, it should be offered limited protection under the Equality Act, namely from harassment.

“Even though I advocate only the inclusion of the harassment provisions of the Equality Act for obesity, ultimately conduct within the workplace that violates an obese person’s dignity or creates a hostile, degrading or humiliating environment, would class as harassment,” he added.

Offering the opposing view, Hilary Aldred argued that obesity should not be protected as a disability because: “If the law protects the overweight under the Equality Act, then such individuals may further abdicate their own individual responsibility for the choices they make – choices which are frequently denied to those who are genuinely disabled,” she said.

WSandB