Does obesity qualify as a disability? This would of course mean that employers would have to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ such as large chairs, desks, altered duties etc.

According to the Advocate of General in Kaltoft v. Billund Municipality, the answer is maybe.

The Advocate General’s opinion will normally, but not always, be followed by the European Court of Justice. This is not, therefore, the final word on the matter, but the Advocate General held that:

  • Obesity does not in itself amount to a protected characteristic under the disability legislation.
  • This may be the case, however, where “the obesity makes carrying out of that job or participation in professional life objectively more difficult and demanding”.

Implications for businesses

Where employees are obese, and this is having a real impact on their performance at work, employers will need to consider whether they are in fact disabled with all that this entails.

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Updates: For employers: Discrimination | Grievances | For employees: Discrimination |

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