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Can obesity be a disability?

18 July 2014

The number of people suffering from obesity in the UK has trebled over the last 25 years. But does obesity fall within the definition of disability under the Equal Treatment Framework Directive?

According to the Advocate General in his opinion in Kaltoft v The Municipality of Billund, it could but only if severe. The Advocate General pointed out that the directive covers physical and mental impairments which make “carrying out of that job or participation in professional life objectively more difficult and demanding”. His view was that a BMI of over 40 (WHO class III), impacting on mobility, endurance and mood would hinder an individual’s participation in professional life to such an extent as to amount to a disability.

Therefore if you have an employee who is severely obese (BMI of over 40) you may have to consider whether the organisation is under a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

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