Fattism: new protected characteristic?

April 26, 2016

In order to reduce discriminatory action taking place against employees within the workplace there is a set of protected characteristics established in the Equality Act 2010. These are split into several categories reflecting existing discriminatory protections: age, race, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, religion/belief, sex and sexual orientation. The protected characteristics are defined in Sections 5-12 of Part 2 of the Equality Act.

It has recently been discussed that a new protected characteristic should be introduced to ensure another form of discrimination is treated seriously. Research has shown that obesity discrimination is still common in UK workplaces. Obese people have been found to have greater difficulty in securing a job, have been paid less than thinner colleagues and were at a larger risk of losing their jobs once in a role. At present times overweight people are only protected if they can prove they are also disabled, therefore they are still at risk of falling victim to workplace discrimination.

It is believed by many employment law professionals that weight discrimination should be taken as seriously as sexism and as a result leading employment judge, Philip Rostant has called for a change in the law to bring the matter into line with other equality issues.

By introducing a new protected characteristic, and overall changing the law, the issue of “fattism” – the discrimination against people based on their weight – will be taken seriously. The message that weight discrimination is unacceptable in the workplace will be emphasized. As a result of this the aim is to reduce the use of abusive terms and reduce the practice of refusing to employ or promote someone based on their weight.

With ‘fattist’ taunts leading to a drop in an individual’s quality of life it is time to make a change and stop weight shaming. Instead let’s offer support and where appropriate treatment.

Need any advice around offering support and treatment, then contact your HR professional for guidance.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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