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Anyone with a BMI over 30 is classified as ‘obese’; and in case of a BMI over 40, a person is said to suffer from ‘morbid obesity’. Like in America, also in the Netherlands, the number of people suffering from obesity increases explosively, with all the consequences that this entails.

The Dutch Act on Equal Treatment stipulates that discrimination on the basis of disability or chronic disease is not permitted.  In the law itself, there are no provisions on discrimination because of weight. It follows from court decisions of the past few years that ‘morbid obesity’ is in any event considered to be a chronic disease.

Research has shown that morbid obesity can lead to 13 times more sickness absence days. In spite of this outcome, it is not allowed to reject a candidate on these grounds, unless the obesity renders the candidate unfit for the position. The same reasoning applies in the event of a possible promotion of an employee.

The employer has a duty of care, also for the employee with morbid obesity; relatively small adjustments must be made, like the purchase of a special chair. At the same time, an employer may also set requirements on an employee with morbid obesity, when as a result of this, the employee is unfit for the position. The support can come in a variety of forms: coaching, customised working conditions, additional support et cetera.

Morbid obesity may, however, lead to dismissal when an employee no longer meets the job requirements, and no positive change takes place within the foreseeable future. This was the case for a group leader of children from the ages of 6 months to 3 years, who were mentally impaired. His BMI: 69…

*Body Mass Index: Weight (kg)/ Length² (m)

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