Should overweight staff be allowed to start work late?

What exactly constitutes a necessary accommodation in the workplace?

Should overweight staff be allowed to start work late?

What exactly constitutes a necessary accommodation in the workplace? Where should employers draw the line between a ‘nice to have’ and the duty to accommodate?

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.”

Speaking of the duty to accommodate, recently, HRD Canada reported on when you can ask an employee for their medical information.

“Medical information of any kind is amongst the most private of information,” explained Ryan Anderson, partner at Mathews, Dinsdale & Clark. “So that means at every decision-making point you’re constantly engaged in a balancing process – balancing the employee’s privacy rights with the employer’s need to obtain medical information.

“In many circumstances, an employer has a right to obtain the information – in fact an employer may even have a duty to enquire. In some circumstance an employer’s right to obtain medical information is driven by the employer’s a legal duty, the most common of which is the duty to accommodate.

“This means that if an employee comes to their employer and expresses an inability to do their job, perhaps indicating a disability, the employer has a legal obligation to consider potential accommodations to help the worker stay in the job – up until the point of undue hardship.”

Do you think HR departments should accommodate overweight workers? Tell us in the comments.





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