Severe obesity could be considered a disability
Businesses may soon be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work place to accommodate severely obese employees or face claims of disability discrimination.
On 17 July 2104, the advocate general of the European Court of Justice, gave an opinion that severe obesity can amount to a disability under European Law.
Helpfully, the advocate general confirmed, that people with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 and above, would be classed as being severely obese.
Although an advocate general’s opinion is not legally binding, it is essentially a recommendation to the European Court, and is highly likely that the European Court of Justice will agree within the next four to six months.
If the court agrees, businesses will need to make sure that they help any severely obese staff at work by making any necessary reasonable adjustments. For example, businesses may need to consider providing employees with larger chairs and desks, providing car parking spaces closer to entrances and changing duties so that they are less physically demanding.
An employee dismissed because of a disability will also be able to claim unlawful discrimination, for which there is no cap on the amount of damages a tribunal can award.