Obesity can amount to a disability

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that in some circumstances obesity can amount to a disability.

The decision is binding on Member States, including the UK, and now means employers here need to give serious consideration to their treatment of obese employees and, in particular, their duty to make reasonable adjustments in order to accommodate their disadvantages. This is likely to have particular relevance in labour intensive roles, requiring full mobility of employees.

Until now, the position in UK law was that medical problems arising out of obesity could fall under the definition of a disability, but obesity itself was not accepted as a disability in its own right. Employers were therefore free from associated duties, and in particular the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

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This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.


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Andrew Chamberlain

Partner - Head of Employment & Chair of the SDE

I am a Partner, the National Head of the Employment Team and the Chair of the Service Delivery Executive (SDE), which is focused on building better solutions for clients.

Judith Firth

Associate - PSL - client facing

I am an Associate and Professional Support Lawyer for the Employment team.