- Jo Faragher
The firm’s research, looking into prejudice at the recruitment stage, found that more than half of HR and recruitment professionals admitted to finding obesity undesirable, judging these candidates as having a negative impact on the workplace and productivity. Instead, there was a preference for candidates perceived to be of a ‘normal’ weight.
When faced with the option of two candidates with identical qualities, the only difference being that one is obese, 51% said they’d prefer to hire the non-obese candidate, Thomas Mansfield found. Almost a third said they would find it hard to be impartial towards obese candidates.
The company undertook the research in the light of the ongoing case of Karsten Kaltoft V Billund Kommune, where a Dutch childminder (Kaltoft) has taken his case to the European Court of Justice, claiming he was the victim of unlawful discrimination because of his weight.
Senior partner at Thomas Mansfield, Neill Thomas, said: “The findings of the study reveal the problem of bias faced by obese people during the recruitment and selection process which potentially means that the most suitably qualified candidate does not get chosen.”
“This highlights that people continue to hold stereotypical assumptions that obese people are responsible for their own weight and any problems they suffer are self-inflicted – whereas it might be the case that there is an underlying medical condition.“
At this point in time, there are no explicit laws protecting against obesity prejudice. However, a ruling in favour of Kaltoft at the ECJ could impact UK law for the benefit of the obese, said Thomas.