A ruling that obesity can be classed as a disability will cause “confusion” and may open a “can of worms”, it was claimed yesterday.
Politicians and business chiefs were divided over the consequences of the European Court of Justice judgment on the case of 25-stone Danish child-minder Karsten Kaltoft.
Dame Anne Begg, Labour MP for Aberdeen South and chairwoman of Westminster’s work and pensions committee, said: “It’s difficult to tell what the impact will be.
“I think this causes a lot of confusion, I don’t think the judgment is that clear. It depends how the British courts view it.
“Is obesity an equality issue or a health issue?
“I tend to think it’s a health issue.
“If someone is so fat that they can’t get out of the house then they are probably already on disability benefits, given they can’t do a job.
“Benefits aren’t judged on what is wrong with people, it is what the effects are on their ability to go about their life.”
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Business for Britain, which campaigns to change the terms of the country’s EU membership, warned the judgment could cost firms dearly.
“This ruling could place a huge burden on UK businesses, with employers forced to pick up the bill for the increased waistlines of their workforce,” he said.
“This is yet another example of a decision by a EU court with no thought for the consequences or impact on business and the wider economy.
“A key demand of any EU renegotiation q/bmust be an end to supremacy of daft rulings from the Continent that mean businesses spend more and more of their time worrying about how to comply with the latest EU ruling rather than growing their business in the global economy.”
National Obesity Forum spokesman Tam Fry said: “This has opened a can of worms for all employers in this country.
“They will be required to make adjustments to their furniture and doors and whatever is needed for very large people. I believe it will also cause friction in the workplace between obese people and other workers.”
Mr Fry said he expected member states to apply to challenge the ruling.