Recent studies conducted by Pearn Kandola in their 2023 Weight Discrimination at Work report reveal that 68% of employees believe weight discrimination exists. However, 53% of them do not consider it a problem.
This highlights that weight discrimination often goes unnoticed. The report delves into employees’ attitudes towards the issue, indicating that weight discrimination is not yet widely acknowledged.
Weight Discrimination in the UK Labor Market
In the UK Labor Market, as highlighted by the Obesity Empowerment Network (OEN), the weight-based stigma persists, resulting in instances of weight discrimination and even its normalization.
A study by the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) found that many employees still attribute obesity to poor lifestyle choices. Among women with obesity, 25% faced job discrimination, 54% experienced weight-based stigma from colleagues, and 45% encountered it from supervisors or employers.
This stigma encompasses derogatory humour and differential treatment.
Key Findings from Pearn Kandola’s Report
Pearn Kandola’s report unveiled additional insights on the matter.
In addition to the earlier figures, 32% of respondents admitted witnessing weight discrimination at work. However, most did not take any action, mainly due to not perceiving it as a serious issue or fearing consequences.
While most respondents could correctly identify explicit and malevolent instances of weight discrimination, fewer were able to identify subtle, malevolent instances accurately. This underscores the need for greater education and awareness regarding weight discrimination in workplaces.
Regarding personal experiences, only 16.8% reported encountering weight discrimination.
The report also indicates that many organizations might not be taking appropriate action. The findings suggest that only 1 in 5 organizations takes any action, underscoring the need for more proactive efforts by employers.
Recommendations and Proposed Legislation
The report suggests that organisations should recognise and address weight discrimination by fostering inclusive workplaces and educating staff to raise awareness.
Currently, the Equality Act 2010 does not consider weight a protected characteristic, making it challenging for employees to prove discrimination unless tied to a medical condition.
However, the proposed Bullying and Respect at Work Bill could change this landscape. If passed, employers would need to establish measures against bullying, including reporting, investigating, and penalties.
The bill also aims to cultivate positive work environments that prioritize safety. Rachael Maskell, the MP behind the bill, aims to establish a legal definition of workplace bullying. This move would empower the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to investigate organisations with multiple bullying incidents and take appropriate action.