We had a sackful of letters in response to our obesity survey, which pretty much dominated the national news agenda two weeks ago. Some HR people got fired up at the suggestion they might be ‘fattist’ – and a selection of your angry responses are printed here.
We stand by our decision to publish this survey because it got thousands of people across the country questioning whether they, too, might be covertly fattist.
Some of the figures were shocking – and who knows how high they might have been in a survey carried out among non-HR people. But raising awareness of this type of discrimination – and forcing people to talk about such a sensitive issue – has to prompt employers to do something about it.
This issue is set to run and run, so keep your opinions coming.
Letter of the week
‘Fattism’ is certainly not the final frontier
‘Fattism’ is by no means the last bastion of employee discrimination.
‘Heightism’ and the negative impact being short can have – especially on men’s career prospects and salary – is well documented, but rarely discussed.
Another area of potential discrimination is personality type. In a society where extrovert behaviour is increasingly seen as desirable, organisations may illogically consider that a more loquacious job candidate will do better in a job that actually requires deep, careful thought and sensitive interpersonal skills. Or that people who dominate meetings have more about them than those who tend to consider questions carefully before giving a reply, and take time to listen to the views of others.
A short man and an introverted person have no chance of changing the aspect upon which they are covertly discriminated against, whereas a fat person can change their own weight.
Training and development consultant
Training Inside Out
Don’t use your readers to generate tabloid headlines
HR has struggled with credibility within organisations and with other professions for many years. So I find it extremely annoying that Personnel Today has made us look like a bunch of unprofessional bigoted idiots.
Articles like your ‘fattism’ story undermine the profession for cheap, headline-grabbing news. In some cases, disability discrimination could have taken place if the applicants had health issues related to their obesity. We did not see the full transcript of the questions, so we don’t know whether this was an issue.
I suggest that you move away from tabloid-grabbing headlines and get back to supporting and advising HR professionals on best practice.
Fattism survey has made HR a laughing stock
I took part in your obesity survey and I am now dismayed about the way the results have been interpreted – stating that the HR profession as a whole will discriminate against overweight people. As a profession, HR is now a laughing stock for the sake of a headline that Personnel Today has dramatised.
In future, if you require national acclaim, please do something worthwhile to deserve the extra publicity.
HR adviser/HR operations
team leader Canada Life
Respondents were forced to take sides
I am annoyed at the insinuation that I may be ‘fattist’ because – along with many other people (93% of respondents) – I said I would employ a ‘normal weight’ applicant over an overweight one.
Respondents were forced into choosing one answer or the other, and therefore into thinking that the overweight person might experience more health problems – so the answer would have to be the ‘normal weight’ candidate. Have you not wondered why the other questions attracted a much lower percentage of answers that were biased against overweight people?
This issue was discussed on national radio, with the comment that HR professionals in the UK should be “disgusted with themselves”.
Perhaps we should all think twice about completing surveys in future.
Discrimination at work is simply inhumane
Employers need to be educated about discrimination in the workplace so that they exercise a humane approach to employees and prospective staff. They need to take much greater interest in the health and wellbeing of all their personnel in a supportive and tactful fashion.
It is inhumane and unjustified to terminate the employment of an individual for any form of discrimination, or not to offer employment to an applicant. This is all too rife today, and this must change in the best interests of all.
Peter John Stubbs
Former office supervisor