British employers are reluctant to take on obese job applicants, a survey suggests
People who are overweight are perceived to be less productive and are less likely to be hired for jobs, according to a study which examined the attitudes of 1,000 British employers.
Nearly half of recruiters questioned said they would be less inclined to recruit an applicant at interview stage if they are obese.
Comments included concerns that they "wouldn't be able to do the job required" and "are unable to play a full role in the business", said Crossland Employment Solicitors, which commissioned the research.
"On the face of it, the odds are against you getting a job if you are overweight," said Beverley Sunderland, managing director at Crossland. “But the law is on your side, as discrimination law warns against making ‘stereotypical assumptions’ at every stage of the recruitment process and this applies to both existing employees, or people applying for a job.”
The European Court of Justice recently ruled that obesity may be a disability if it causes a long term impairment that prevents the employee from doing their job at the same level as other workers.
The ruling means that employers now have to find ways to accommodate obese workers who fall within this definition of disability.
Obese job applicants can also question that they are not discriminated against if they do not get the job.
If an obese person tells an employer about their long term conditions at interview and the company does not employ them, the applicant could try and claim disability discrimination, lawyers say.
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, the World Health Organisation warns
Almost a third of the employers questioned said they are worried about the potential costs to the business to accommodate the side effects of overweight staff, and 63pc cited a fear of being taken to court on grounds of discrimination if the disability needs of obese workers aren't met.
Employers in Scotland and the East Midlands are the least likely to discriminate against overweight people.
The survey authors suggest this reflects national UK trends as Scotland has the highest percentage of adults classified as obese. Some 27pc of people in Scotland are obese. This compares to 9.2pc in London, which has one of the lowest rates.
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, according to the World Health Organisation , which says at least 2.8m people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.
A quarter of men and women in the UK are obese , with a BMI of more than 30. A further 42pc of men and 32pc of women are classified as overweight.
In an attempt to tackle the obesity crisis, the NHS is offering cooking classes to fat families and will send overweight doctors and nurses to Slimming World. More than half of NHS staff are overweight or obese .
Scotland has the highest obesity rate in the UK, with 27pc classified as obese
Meanwhile a separate survey suggests that discrimination of gay and lesbian job seekers is also commonplace in the UK.
The research, carried out by Dr Nick Drydakis of Anglia Ruskin University and published in the journal Human Relations , involved 144 first-time job seekers making 11,098 applications.
The authors found that gay applicants of both sexes were 5pc less likely to be offered a job interview than heterosexual applicants with comparable skills and experience.
In the accounting and finance sector, there were 74 occasions when only the heterosexual candidate was offered an interview and not the gay male candidate with comparable skills and experience. There were no instances of only the gay male candidate being offered an interview.