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Does obesity amount to a disability?

For those of you who avidly follow our employment law blogs may recall last August the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that obesity itself would not amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (“EQA”); however physical ailments which resulted from obesity could (Walker v Sita Information Networking Computing Ltd).

Clearly where obesity amounts to a disability this gives rise to the duty for employers to make reasonable adjustments which includes providing bigger chairs and desks and perhaps even a flexible working pattern.

This week the Advocate General, issued an opinion on this point in Kaltoft v The Municipality of Billund. In the main, the opinion was similar to the decision of Walker, obesity per se did not fall under the Equal Treatment Framework Directive.

The Advocate General pointed out that the EU definition of disability covers physical or mental impairments which hinder an obese employee from participating in a professional life, and typically, this includes effects on mobility or impairing senses.  He concluded that in these cases, it could be considered a disability.

It’s worth noting that the operative word is ‘could’ and not ‘must’. The opinion of the Advocate-General is usually followed by the Court of Justice of the European Union.

If you are dealing with an issue relating to whether a disability falls within the definition of the EQA please do not hesitate to contact me on 0113 350 4030 or samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk for a free consultation.

Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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