Obesity in the workplace isn’t a topic that gets talked about out loud very often. But with the statistics indicating that Australians are getting bigger, it is well worth covering some issues around this.
First of all, obesity will be covered as a protected attribute under the Equal Opportunity Act (Vic) 2010 under the heading of “appearance”. This covers most things that are naturally a part of you, such as your height, natural hair colour, and of course, your weight. However, in reality, studies show that most employers will discriminate against obese job applicants, whether consciously or unconsciously, making it harder for overweight people to find employment. Obese employees are also less likely to get promoted.
Another issue to think of is of course occupational health and safety. One issue that I have come across is that while most personal protective equipment is made to fit a range of people, if somebody is too obese to be able to wear required safety gear, they are not able to fulfill the inherent requirements of the role. If a particular level of fitness is required for a role, obesity may hamper this.
An interesting result came out of a recent “wellness program” run by a local government body in the USA. Part of this wellness program was a weight loss program that encouraged healthy eating and exercise. It was found that where employees lost a significant amount of weight, there was a 20% increase in productivity.
To think about? Companies need to look over their shoulders and see if they do have a hiring bias, whilst also keeping in mind the inherent requirements of the role. However, applicants in a competitive job market need to think about how their appearance could be hampering their success.
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