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Is Your Workplace Making You Fat?

In 2013 the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation published findings that the UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe, ahead of countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Sweden. Milton Keynes (where we are based) has the highest number of overweight people in the country. Public Health England’s figures show that 72.5 per cent of over 18s are overweight or obese in MK compared to an average of 64 per cent across England. What on earth has happened to us that we treat our bodies and health so callously?

Being overweight is a lifestyle choice for the vast majority of overweight people. The pain of being overweight is greatly outweighed (no pun intended) by the pleasure of eating. We all agree that the stick thin models are equally unhealthy, but being within the ideal weight range with toned muscle is essential to live the optimum healthy lifestyle.

Judge Philip Rostant said earlier this year that fattist discrimination in the workplace should be outlawed to bring the issue into line with other equality issues. The judge said such laws would prevent bias against those of "non-ideal weight".

In some ways it’s rather amusing that the judge has espoused this cause. I was at Bar School with Phil and though I haven’t seen or spoken to him in 30 years he had then (and still seems to have judging by the photos) the figure of a racing snake.

While I fully agree that inappropriate banter about weight should be firmly dealt with, I don’t buy into making obesity a protected characteristic. Being an alcoholic or drug taker isn’t a protected characteristic. An illness, yes. A disability, no. It makes no sense for obesity to be treated differently.

Be that as it may, the workplace can play a positive or negative role (that’s role not roll!). In some places you can’t move for delicious sugar packed goodies being produced on the weakest of excuses. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, Fridays, by-elections and Brexits, you name it there’s some justification for hoovering up some more unhealthy stuff. Does your workplace kitchen have a box of “baddies” lurking in the corner?

I won’t have people eating at their desks. It’s unhealthy, encourages grazing, unhygienic, can damage equipment and having people making gobbling or slurping noises to clients on the phone is positively revolting. We rarely have a cake or biscuit enter the office unless it’s for a special occasion or Kirsty and Lauren have been baking. We all like it that way and it stops us from snacking unnecessarily!

Professor Nigel Hunt from the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons has said ‘cake culture is fuelling obesity and dental problems’ with 65,000 adults each year going to hospital for the treatment of tooth decay.

Professor Hunt went on to say: ‘workplace temptation stops people from losing weight and staff should be rewarded with fruit, nuts or cheese instead’ and ‘that the workplace is now the primary site of their sugar intake and is contributing to the current obesity epidemic and poor oral health’.

Shocking statements. Employers should be providing healthy options and actively encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Have a fruit Friday instead of cake Tuesday. Stop employees from eating at their desks. Make sure they have proper breaks and only eat food then. If you have any employees with conditions that require regular intakes of food agree a system of breaks allowing them to do so.

Put simply, it’s good for productivity and good for business.

We deal with the good, the bad and the ugly of HR. If you need help resolving problems with cake related matters or any other HR issues, give us a call on 01908 262628.

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