• We have previously reported on the progress around whether obesity is considered to be a disability under European Union law (see Is obesity the new disability and Update – is obesity the new disability?)

    This has been a matter of great interest for many employers bearing in mind the growing number of obese people in the UK and the possible effects that obesity may have on their ability to carry out their role.

    The European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) has now confirmed that:

    The position, therefore, remains that obesity is not a disability of itself but the effects of obesity may result in an individual being disabled if the effects are long term. Unlike the Advocate General, the ECJ did not suggest that only severe obesity may fall within the definition of disability.

    • Obesity itself cannot be regarded as a ground for protection against discrimination;
    • However, “where obesity entails a limitation which results in particular from physical, mental or psychological impairments that an interaction with various barriers may hinder the full and effective participation of that person in professional life on an equal basis with other workers, and the limitation is a long-term one”.

    Each case will need to be determined on the facts of that case. It will be for employment tribunals to determine whether the conditions required for obesity to amount to a disability are met in those particular circumstances.

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