Overweight and underpaid as ‘lookism’ sweeps the world

A US survey on appearance discrimination in the workplace confirms a trend of ‘lookism’ sweeping businesses across the world, according to employment experts at law firm Eversheds.

The survey, conducted by the Employment Law Alliance (the world’s largest network of employment lawyers), found a culture of discrimination against those deemed overweight, unattractive or unconventional in appearance.

The survey also discovered:

  • 39% of Americans thought that employers should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of appearance

  • 33% believed that those who are more physically attractive are more likely to get promoted

  • 16% felt that they had been discriminated against because of the way they look

  • 33% also felt that those who are overweight, unattractive or unconventional in appearance should be protected by similar laws to those who are disabled.

Damian Kelly, employment partner at Eversheds, said the survey findings are very relevant to UK businesses.

“‘Lookism’ is not a trend which only affects those over the Atlantic – there have been examples in the UK of appearance discrimination,” he said. “Two years ago, Fitness First received widespread criticism after a leaked e-mail claimed that larger employees did not fit the firm’s image.

“Also, a report last year by the University of Helsinki showed that overweight women earned up to 30% less than their more slender colleagues.”

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