It wouldn't happen here would it? Employers demanding that their staff lose weight? It's unlikely that UK employers will be sending staff to Weightwatchers or measuring their body fat any time soon, but the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) is urging employers to gain a better understanding of obesity in the office.
Rates of overweight and obesity are still rising at an alarming rate. In the UK almost 7 out of 10 men and 6 out of 10 women are affected by the condition.
And it’s true that working practices haven’t helped. We have more sedentary jobs, long working hours and for the many of us who now work from home, the ever present lure of the biscuit tin.
Where possible the workplace should have a positive impact on an individual’s ability to maintain a healthy weight. For instance the staff canteen can offer and promote healthy food, showers can be provided for those who want to cycle or run to work and gym membership can be offered as a benefit.
But employers can only go so far. They can’t force reluctant employees to lose weight or impose a 10,000-step daily target on them. And most small business owners won’t have the facilities to install showers and pay for gym membership.
Then there is the question of where all this will end. Yes, the rising levels of obesity put increasing pressure on the already stretched NHS budget and it is an issue that needs to be tackled, but what about smoking and drinking? These have their own risks and costs so should employers also be banning cigarette breaks and checking on how many units of alcohol were drunk the previous evening?
Employers can certainly play a part in encouraging healthy living but staff must also have free choice to determine their own life styles and life choices.
Time for another cup of coffee, but no biscuit this time……
At the beginning of this year, it was reported that Pakistan International Airlines sent a memo to all their cabin crew with the warning ‘Lose weight or lose your jobs’ – if cabin crew were overweight they would be grounded unless they lost their ‘excess weight’.