Is obesity a disability?.

Approximately 20% of the population of the UK is now officially “obese”. This means that obesity, which can result in severe health consequences, will increasingly become an issue for employers.

In the recent case of Walker v SITA Information Network Computing Ltd [2013] the Tribunal had to consider whether Mr Walker was disabled within the meaning of the disability discrimination legislation. Mr Walker weighed over 21 stone and he suffered from a range of conditions associated with his obesity such as knee problems, high blood pressure and chronic fatigue syndrome. The Tribunal decided he wasn’t disabled because the medical evidence did not reveal any physical or mental cause for the symptoms, other than obesity. Mr Walker appealed to the EAT.

The EAT overturned the Tribunal’s decision and confirmed the approach that should be followed. Tribunals should consider:

  1. Whether the employee has an impairment and, if so,
  2. Whether it is physical or mental.

The EAT stressed that a Tribunal should not overlook the effects of an impairment because they cannot identify a precise cause.

What are the implications of this decision for employers?

Obesity will not always amount to an impairment and will depend on the medical evidence relating to each individual. However, this case confirms that the focus should be on whether the employee suffers from a physical or mental impairment and not the cause. The EAT intimated that if an employee is obese, it is more likely that a Tribunal would conclude that they have an impairment and will be considered to be disabled and therefore protected by disability discrimination law.

Pensions….

Employers struggling with the complexity of the auto-enrolment provisions will welcome the DWP’s proposals to simplify the process. The DWP has published a consultation paper on its plans to improve automatic enrolling and intends to lay regulations before Parliament as soon as the consultation period ends on 7 May 2013. The changes will come into force by April 2014.

Whistleblowing

Whistleblowing has received a lot of media attention recently and continues to be a hot issue. The Whistleblowing Commission has started a public consultation on whistleblowing in the workplace. Proposals include making whistleblowing policies mandatory, exempting whistleblowers from tribunal fees (due to come into force Summer 2013) and extending the level of protection for workers. Consultation closes on 21 June 2013

Insights.

Discrimination and the Law #SolicitorChat with The Law Society
2nd July, 2020

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been a focus on race discrimination in recruitment processes and workplaces. Andrew Knorpel discussed with The Law Society and…

No fault divorce gets Royal Assent
29th June, 2020

Bethan Campbell provides an update on the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill that will become an Act of Parliament having received Royal Assent on 25th June 2020.

A guide to Cohabitation Agreements #SolicitorChat with The Law Society
18th June, 2020

With restrictions in place and a lot of time at home with our partners, Judith Fitton discussed with The Law Society and other firms about Cohabitation Agreements #SolicitorChat

Flexible Furlough Scheme – The Devil’s In the Detail
18th June, 2020

Andrew Knorpel expands on his last Flexible Furlough Scheme post following the most recent information provided by the Government.