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Fit cats see workplace benefits

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If you put on a few extra pounds over the festive period then here’s another reason to start working out – a survey reveals that 79 per cent of British bosses believe there is prejudice against people who are seriously overweight.

And 70 per cent believe that overweight people are seen as lacking self-discipline and control.

The survey, into workplace image, was carried out by executive communications consultancy The Aziz Corporation and also found that a clear majority of bosses believe that those who are very fit and exercise regularly are better able to cope with the stresses and demands of the workplace.

Professor Khalid Aziz, chairman of The Aziz Corporation, said: “Contrary to the belief that brains not weight is important in business, and that only supermodels and celebrities need to concern themselves with diets and regular exercise to look good, this research reveals that appearance matters in business, and that weight is one of the key factors in appearance.

“Those who are heavily overweight give a message that they lack self-control. Consequently, others may believe that this behaviour will be reflected in their work, and that they may lack the self-esteem and ambition necessary for a senior role in business. The competitive nature of business and securing a senior role means that appearance can be make or break.

“Employees are judged on appearance as well as talent. If you have two candidates both capable of doing a job and one is of normal weight and the other is heavily overweight, then often the thinner person will be chosen, particularly if they will be in a client-facing role.

“This is because, rightly or wrongly, being slim is often equated with being successful. This message is heavily promoted by the advertising world and so this particular prejudice only looks set to continue.”

But although there is no legislation specifically forbidding discrimination on the grounds of weight in the UK (there is in some US states), employers can find themselves in trouble if the weight gain is caused by a long-term medical impairment which substantially affects a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act, long-term is defined as having lasted for 12 months or being likely to last for a year or the rest of the person’s life.

There is no upper limit to the compensation tribunals may award for disability discrimination and compensation can also be made for injury to feelings.

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