Should obesity should be classed as a “protected characteristic”, allowing staff to sue “fat shaming bosses”?
Should employers be obliged to accommodate the needs of overweight workers?
A government advisor in the UK will propose to the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna that obesity should be classed as a “protected characteristic” and could allow staff to sue “fat shaming bosses”.
Stephen Bevan, head of HR research at the Institute for Employment Studies, said that businesses need to make more of an effort when it comes to helping overweight workers – such as starting work an hour later to avoid the rush hour chaos.
Speaking at the conference, Bevan said: “We need to co-ordinate our efforts so that people who want to work can do so.
“It can be working time, it can be having a bit of understanding that someone might need to turn up at 10 o’clock because they have trouble with transport or anxiety about transport.
“I don’t think enough [employers] regard being overweight and obese as part of the family of conditions or impairments that they need to do something about.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (AHRC Act) currently prohibits workplace discrimination on broad range of grounds, including race and disability, but there is no explicit mention of weight.
Grounds of discrimination currently covered by the AHRC Act
- criminal record
- impairment, mental, intellectual, psychiatric and physical disability
- marital status
- medical record
- political opinion
- race, colour, nationality, national extraction
- social origin
- sexual orientation
- trade union activity
Do you think HR departments should accommodate overweight workers? Tell us in the comments.