Weight Watchers at work sparks plea for sensitivity

A Weight Watchers scheme that targets workplace staff must be handled sensitively to prevent ‘victimisation or harassment issues’, a top HR chief has warned.

Last week it emerged that the famous weight-loss company would be ramping up efforts to run classes during lunch hours and after work to plug into a government drive to help staff eat more healthily and lose weight.

Weight Watchers is currently working with 50 companies, including software firm Sage, but hopes to have 300 companies on board by this time next year.

Dietary advice will be provided by a Weight Watchers leader and scales will be brought in for confidential weekly weigh-in sessions.

Bronwen Philpott, director of people strategy at Monarch Airlines, welcomed the initiative, but added it would have to be entirely voluntary.

“The scheme would need to be sensitively handled to prevent any victimisation or harassment issues developing with those with weight issues,” she told Personnel Today. “The provision of a suitable location is essential for that as well.”

Sage, which began offering the scheme in January and renewed its contract in August, insisted there was no risk of victimisation for employees attending classes.

A spokeswoman said: “Any advertising about the programme is subtle, and no-one knows who is going [to classes]. It’s very private and 100% voluntary. Anything that goes on there is confidential.”

The scheme comes amid growing concern about Britain’s obesity crisis. A Weight Watchers spokesperson said it was designed to help staff improve their health and fitness, and this in turn would cut sickness absence.

However, other HR directors Personnel Today spoke to warned diet was only one factor in tackling obesity.

David Batman, head of employee wellness at food manufacturer Nestl√©, said: “I support what Weight Watchers do but I think to bring them in to run lunchtime classes will only look at a small part,” he said.

“What you weigh is not as simple as looking at what you eat. Exercise and education also come into it.”

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