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Employers warned over disability ruling

A legal expert has warned employers to be aware of a major European court ruling which has decided obesity can constitute a disability in some situations.

The European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court, has ruled on a landmark case which saw a male childminder claim he was sacked for being too fat.

As a result, the court has decided that if obesity can prevent ‘full and effective participation’ in a job then it can indeed count as a disability.

Kimberley Barrett-St.Vall, solicitor in the Employment team at Napthens, warns that the ruling is binding across the EU, and employers should be aware of the changes and what they mean.

She said: “While this ruling does not actually confirm obesity is a disability in all cases, the effects of obesity may be.

“So if an employee’s weight hinders their ability to carry out day-to-day activities and their ability to perform their role they may be entitled to protection against disability discrimination.

“This in turn means that there could be an obligation on an employer to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace, such as special parking, larger chairs or seating and adjustments to a desk or workspace.

“Other members of staff should also be made aware of the rules to ensure they do not harass the obese employees on the grounds of their size.”