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Will obesity mean extra office furniture costs?

UK Companies may be faced with having to buy specialist office furniture for overweight staff members should a European court case rule that obesity-related problems qualify as a disability issue. This EU obesity ruling could mean extra office furniture bills for firms

With this pending legal case looming, there is the potential to place a bigger onus on companies to ensure working conditions change to cope with the increasing issues associated with obesity.

Companies currently have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to the working environment, so reducing the barriers for staff with a disability to participate in the office on an equal basis with other employees.

Those reasonable adjustments might include the providing of height adjustable desks for wheelchair users

The numbers of people suffering from obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. The National Obesity Forum believes there is a “serious risk” the current projection that half of adults will be obese by 2050 could be exceeded. This issue is not going away and is going to become even more in the spotlight.

Even as we write the government has pitched in, as it wants employers to offer workers incentives to lose weight, including shopping vouchers, cash or prizes

So what should employers have to do to help those employees?

A number of companies are already aware of the benefits of height-adjustable furniture for all staff A Height-adjustable desk gives employees the opportunity to spend more time standing, and are already used extensively. Companies use specialist office furniture as a in an attempt to avoid issues with repetitive strain injury and bad backs as sitting down for eight hours a day isn’t good for anyone.

There’s also a growing demand for furniture, such as seating, which is suitable for larger or heavier people and JS have seen sales of specialist ergonomic seating for the workplace rise in the past few years.

Businesses know that making it easier for their employees to stay healthy not only has a positive impact on well being at work, but also reduces absenteeism which can otherwise add significant cost over the course of a year.

At the end of the day employees have to make their own lifestyle choices. However, there is potentially a legal imperative for employers to adapt the workplace around the impact of those choices. Factoring in any additional costs to your budget will ensure staff can to do their jobs to the best of their ability. At the very least it makes sense to examine the costs for new office furniture such as chairs and desks for those people affected. Those businesses that don’t might have regrets in the advent of a change in the law

Posted by Chris Johnson on 23 October 2014