Obesity: is it a disability or not? New discrimination law?

By Alison Downie and Zachary Brown

A case is currently being considered by the Court of Justice of the European Union concerning obesity and a ruling is expected shortly. Whichever way the court decides, this will be an important decision for UK employers and employees. Below we confirm the current UK law on this tricky issue and the reasons this might change shortly.

Under the Equality Act 2010, a person is considered to have a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. A person who has a disability has protection under the Equality Act in various ways to prevent unlawful discrimination against them. In the workplace, this includes protection from being dismissed solely because of their disability, and the right to have reasonable adjustments considered and made by their employer to enable them to work.

The current position under UK law is that obesity itself is not a qualifying disability for such protection from discrimination…

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