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18-07-2014

About a quarter of the adult population in the UK is clinically obese.  In terms of work, it can also reduce an employee's ability to carry out work effectively. But is obesity in itself a disability?

Under the Equality Act 2010, a person is considered to have a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment and it has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The Advocate General has given an opinion on the extent to which EU law protects obese workers from discrimination. He found that there is no general principle of EU law banning discrimination on grounds of obesity. However, severe or morbid obesity might fall within the definition of "disability" under the Equal Treatment Framework Directive if it stops an employee  from full  participation in their professional life on an equal basis with others. Disability is objective and does not depend on whether it is self-inflicted.  Therefore it will not matter whether the obesity is caused by an underlying medical condition or simply the over consumption of food.  The crucial issue is whether or not the employee is in fact suffering from impairment.  See (FOA, acting on behalf of Karsten Kaltoft v Kommunernes Landsforening, acting on behalf of the Municipality of Billund C-354/13.)

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