Ex-Apprentice star wouldn't hire fat people

Updated: 

Katie Hopkins

The ex-Apprentice contestant, Katie Hopkins, is known for being outspoken and outrageous in her views, and she has done it again. This time she announced that she wouldn't employ obese people, because they give off the wrong impression.

Clearly this is discrimination, but is it common, and is it legal?


Hopkins

She made the statement in a piece she wrote for The Sun. It was intended to defend the comments she made on TV last week, in which she said she wouldn't let her kids play with children with names like Tyler and Chardonnay, because they are a short-cut to understanding that child's background.

Her comments clearly upset presenter Holly Willoughby - whose own daughter is called Belle. However, she was not put off by the reaction to her views.

She went further, adding: "Frustrated by all this PC claptrap, I stand up for what I believe in. I will call out the lazy, the idle and the ignorant."

She then laid into the overweight, saying: "I bet I'm also not the only one who thinks that if you are obese, you should eat less, move more and lose weight."

"Would I employ you if you were obese? No I would not. You would give the wrong impression to the clients of my business. I need people to look energetic, professional and efficient. If you are obese you look lazy."

This is wrong on so many levels. Hopkins is buying into a fallacy about the link between fitness and weight. Of course someone who eats well and exercises is going to be a healthy weight. However, a thin person may well be desperately lazy and unfit - and listless because they don't eat properly. And on the flip side a fat person may be hard-working, energetic and fit - they just apply their energy, enthusiasm and zest for life to food as well as everything else.

Common

But Hopkins is not alone in her beliefs. According to the Size Acceptance Movement, 93% of employers would rather hire a thin person than a fat person - even if they have exactly the same qualifications.

A survey by Personnel Today fund that 93% of recruiters would choose a 'normal weight' person over an obese one, while 15% would be less likely to promote an obese person and 10% felt they could dismiss someone because of their weight.

Your rights

Unfortunately for anyone larger than 'normal size' the bad news is that there is no protection against fattism in law. This means that anyone who feels discriminated against because of their size has to use less specific employment rights.

Let's be clear: you cannot be sacked because of your weight. Your employer has to be able to demonstrate that it has had a specific impact on the business. This may happen if, for example, a flight attendant was no longer able to walk through the cabin, but in most instances this would be incredibly difficult for an employer to prove. Take the case of Ronald Agnew, a 25-stone postman, who was dismissed on health grounds. He won an appeal for unfair dismissal, was re-instated and awarded over £24,000 compensation.

If your weight starts to affect your ability to do the job, there's an additional complication employers need to be aware of, because if a person's weight has rendered them disabled, they may be afforded protection under the disability discrimination act.

If you are constantly mocked for your weight, or feel unfairly treated because of it, then you are within your rights to make a complaint, and bring a grievance. If your employer fails to deal with harassment or bullying and the situation becomes impossible, you may have a case for constructive dismissal.

But what do you think? Should people be protected against fattism in the workplace, or is Hopkins right?

Celebrities with unusual business interests

Celebrities with unusual business interests


More stories