Watch for Obesity becoming a Disability

Only very recently has the Advocate-General considered how the EU defines disability and applied it to the case of Kaltoft v Municipality of Billund, a Danish case in which Mr. Kaltoft a childminder’s employment was terminated on the grounds of his obesity. Mr. Kaltoft contended that he had always been obese through his 15 years of service and so claimed against his employer.

An informed Occupational Health expert must be aware that the EU definition of disability covers mental and/or physical conditions which make “carrying out that job or participation in professional life objectively more difficult and demanding”. It is not therefore hard to understand how obesity (not forgetting that there is a World Health Organisation spectrum of obesity) can trigger this qualification.

For those of you who have not yet had to make reasonable adjustments for bariatric personnel (which you are not yet required to do I hasten to add) consider the cost of replacing furniture with that of an over-sized and reinforced nature, providing more disabled parking spaces and curtailing physical work to accommodate the disability caused by obesity and it is possible to see that the burden of this could be crippling to many businesses, especially given the rise in obesity in the UK.

The Attorney-General in the case of Kaltoft considered whether there had been any form of discrimination generally (for which there was held to be no such claim) and also whether obesity could be classed as a disability. Only severe obesity “can” be considered a disability and so this means a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more.

Extra Provisions For The Corpulent

Remember though that even though there is an overarching EU stance on disability Equality Act 2010 at 6(1) defines the test which your Occupational Health expert should always have in mind in every assessment they make , whether you ask for this advice or not.

To see how obesity could affect your staff try using this calculator – do any of your staff have a BMI of 40 or more?

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Dr Grant Charlesworth-Jones

Dr. Charlesworth-Jones not only holds dual qualifications in both medicine and law but also continues to practice both.

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