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Obesity considered disability by EU

The European Court of Justice has ruled that obesity could count as a disability under certain circumstances in a ruling that is binding across the EU.

The ruling came from the EU’s highest court following a review into the sacking of a male nanny in Denmark. Childminder Karsten Kaltoft, who weighs around 25 stone, believed he was sacked for being overweight from his employers.

Prevents "Full and Effective Participation" 

The court ruled that in certain cases, being obese could count as a disability, as it could prevent "full and effective participation" in activities at work. The ECJ ruled that if the obesity of the worker "hinders the full and effective participation of that person in professional life on an equal basis with other workers" then it could be classified as an obesity.

The case made no link between Body Mass Index and obesity, but rather on if their work is affected by their weight. This effectively means that employers must judge on a case by case basis if an employee may have a disability due to their weight.

"Making the Situation Worse"

Jane Deville Almond, the chairwoman of the British Obesity Society, said obesity should not be classed as a disability.

She said: "I think the downside would be that if employers suddenly have to start ensuring that they've got wider seats, larger tables, more parking spaces for people who are obese, I think then we're just making the situation worse.”

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