News and Updates

Battle of the bulge

In one of our previous articles (which can be found here) we explored the possibility of obesity being considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if it has a substantial and long term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day to day activities.

With 64% of the adult population classed as being overweight or obese, classing obesity as a disability would prove challenging for employers as they would be required by law to make reasonable adjustments for obese employees and make sure they are not treated unfairly for reasons connected to their weight.

In response to this issue Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, will announce a five-year plan this month to tackle the rise of obesity in the country. Part of this plan will include tax breaks for employers who introduce health programmes encouraging staff to lose weight and stay healthy.

The chief executive is drawing from personal experience, having lost three stone while working in the US for UnitedHealth, a healthcare company that receives tax breaks for employees who manage to meet healthy targets.

Under the new plan, employers will need to ensure their health programmes meet the certified standards set by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE). According to the NICE website (which can be viewed here) programmes may range from promoting healthier choices in staff eating areas and vending machines to organising out-of-hours activities such as jogging clubs and group weigh-ins. Nothing has been confirmed as to how far employers will need to go to benefit from the tax break, but a hassle-free scheme would allow start-ups and SMEs to get involved without making substantial changes to their staff policies.

The new plan will also appeal to businesses that currently pay for private healthcare for their employees, since a healthier workforce will make for less comprehensive cover. Mr Stevens noted that it has taken time for this country to see the financial benefit in such a scheme. ‘In a number of other countries because employers have to cover healthcare costs they have an incentive but it’s not really something we think about here, it’s been a blind spot,’ he explained.

This new initiative is yet another example of how the health and wellbeing of employees can have a knock-on effect towards their employer, hopefully providing them with some serious food for thought (sorry...).

For further information on the issues raised in this article, please contact a member of the Spencer Wyatt team on 020 7925 8080 or by email at

+44 (0)20 7925 8080