Debate: It is wrong for employers to discriminate against obese people?


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The Independent Online


What's going on?

Single mother Jay Cole believes new laws should be brought in to stop employers discriminating against overweight people.

Appearing on This Morning yesterday, she said employers judge her 22-stone weight immediately in interviews, and dismiss her for the role, despite being keen to get off benefits and into employment.

Citing an example last week where a woman she knew got the job over her - despite failing the maths test she had passed - she claims this is discrimination similar to racism or disablism.

Apprentice star Katie Hopkins argued that she wouldn't employ anyone who was obese, and if someone suspected they were being judged negatively for their size, it is their responsibility to act and lose weight.

Figures recently published by the Department of Work and Pensions showed that more than 7,000 Britons are too fat to work. Last year, this cost the taxpayer more than £28 million in benefit payments.

Case for: Chemistry

It’s simply naïve to think of obesity as a product of doughnut-gobbling greediness. An individual’s propensity to put on fat is largely determined by genes, and losing weight is made far harder for an obese person as the chemistry in their body changes dramatically. The brain, for example, seems to stop responding  to Leptin, the hormone that signals fullness. And since obesity is overwhelmingly a product of man’s biology being ill-suited to modern lifestyles, what right do employers have to punish those who are obese? None. At least, no more than they can punish someone addicted to smoking.

Case against: Image

Whether we like it or not employers will take appearance into consideration when judging someone for a role. In some positions, being overweight would hinder productivity, and it is also more likely that the employee would suffer bad health and need to take time off. Presenting a positive corporate image is vital to success, and obesity can represent a lack of self-control. It is not the same as racism or disablism, and in cases where a health problem is not present, obesity can be acted on.