Financial & Legal News

INSIGHT: A Weighty Issue for Oldham Employers

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January is a time when losing weight is high on the agenda. But obesity is on the radar for a different reason following a ruling by the European Court of Justice, which could impact on Oldham employers.

Pearson Solicitors is urging caution when dealing with seriously overweight staff in the workplace following the ruling, which stated that obesity could be classed as a disability.

The case centred round a male child-minder in Denmark, weighing around 25 stone, who said he was sacked for being too fat. Judges ruled that ‘obesity in itself is not a disability, but if a person had a long-term impairment because of their obesity, then they would be protected by disability legislation’ and that if the obesity of the worker ‘hinders the full and effective participation of that person in professional life on an equal basis with other workers’, then obesity could be deemed to be a disability.

As a result of the ruling, employers must make reasonable adjustments to their workplace on a case-by-case basis, such as providing larger chairs, special car parking and measures to protect employees from verbal harassment.

Last year, a report by Public Health England revealed that 69 per cent of Oldham residents aged 16 and over were classed as overweight, with 25 per cent registered as obese. Susan Mayall, head of employment at Pearson Pearson Solicitors, is warning local businesses to be aware of how this ruling could affect them.

She commented: “Employers need to understand the effect this could have on their treatment of employees who are classed as obese, particularly if they are suffering from a long-term impairment or condition as a result.

“This ruling means that businesses may need to make reasonable adjustments to working and seating arrangements, or make access to the office easier.

“In addition, workers who suffer from the effects of obesity, such as joint problems, depression or diabetes, will be protected by the European Equal Treatment Framework Directive.”

For further information contact  a member of the Employment team on 0161 785 3500 or email

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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