Severely obese staff may gain disability rights

The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) stated that morbid obesity may come within the meaning of “disability” under EU law, following his opinion on the case of Karsten Kaltoft v Billund. The Advocate General’s opinion is not binding on the ECJ. However, if the ECJ agrees its decision will be binding on UK national courts and tribunals, which will need to consider morbid obesity as a potential disability under the Equality Act 2010.

Implications for employers

If morbid obesity is deemed to be a disability under UK law, employers will be obliged to make reasonable adjustments for morbidly obese staff who are placed at a substantial disadvantage by their medical condition. Which will mean employers will find themselves under a legal obligation to make adjustments, such as providing parking spaces close to the workplace entrance, special desks, duties which involve reduced walking or travelling or possibly even ensuring healthy meal options are provided in the staff canteen.

We await the decision from the ECJ