Employers ignore the social stigma on obesity

There is a huge social stigma attached to obesity, and employers aren’t doing enough to tackle it.

That’s the finding of a survey carried out among 2,603 readers of Personnel Today and 331 members of obesity charity The Obesity Awareness & Solutions Trust (TOAST) for Obesity Awareness Week.

The majority of HR professionals (93%) agree obesity is stigmatised, two-thirds say it is not discussed enough in their organisation, and 71% say their organisation is not actively tackling obesity.

And when it comes to recruitment, 93% of employers would hire a ‘normal weight’ person instead of an obese one, where the candidates are identically qualified.

Yet the TOAST members who participated in the research believed that employers would be more likely to select obese people for redundancy or pass them over for promotion, and 86% said organisations were not sympathetic to obese employees.

TV personality Anne Diamond, who runs weight management site fathappens.com and is a patron of TOAST, says obesity should be “the new smoking”.

She adds: “Let’s start within the business world, and ask HR managers and bosses to blaze the trail. This current attitude to fat – this sneering, patronising, bullying, ignorant and blatant discrimination – has got to stop.”

Our survey also found that:

  • 96% of employers and 94% of employees thought it was unacceptable to tease obese people about their weight
  • 44% of employers and 42% of employees believe that obesity negatively affects employees’ output
  • 26% of employers and 48% of employees agree that obese people negatively affect the corporate image
  • 53% of employers and 44% of employees think that obese people lack self-discipline
  • 32% of employers and 41% of employees believe that obese people are more likely to have emotional problems

For the full survey results, see the 13 March issue of Personnel Today

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