For help with a story or to find an expert: 0114 225 2811
Media centre home > News> Gender and sexuality> Study identifies weight discrimination in the workplace

Issued:05/05/16

A Sheffield Hallam University study has found that obese men and women are less likely to be employed because of their weight.

In a study of 181 recruiters from sedentary, standing, manual and heavy manual occupations, obese, female applicants were found to be the less suitable candidates while men of a normal weight were deemed the most suitable for employment.

Each of the employers who took part in the study were given identical, hypothetical CVs with accompanying photographs depicting fat and thin people. Each of the applicants met all the criteria stated within the job descriptions and person specifications and they were each given a suitability score out of 42.

Men of a normal weight received an average overall score of 39.14 while the obese male applicants scored 25.38.

The average suitability score for women of a normal weight was 34.65 out of a possible 42 while women who were obese scored 23.31.

The study also concluded that those CVs without an accompanying photograph scored higher than the applicants whose photos depicted an obese man (scoring 30.42) and an obese woman who scored 28.27.

For the sedentary workplace the advertised job offer was an administrative assistant and the recruiters favoured the male applicant of a normal weight, who achieved a score of 38.88 out of 42 compared to the obese female applicant who scored 29.51.

The role of a university lecturer was advertised for the 'standing' occupation and researchers found that the female obese applicant scored 1.11 fewer points than the obese male and 13.4 fewer points than the male candidate of normal weight.    

Obese applicants were also found to be the least employable for the manual and heavy manual jobs, which were advertised as a retail salesperson and a labourer.

Obesity discrimination infocard.jpg
Stuart Flint

Click to view the images

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Sheffield Hallam University, Charles University, Czech Republic, University of Bath, the University of Maribor, Slovenia, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands and Radboud University, Netherlands. 

Lead researcher, Dr Stuart Flint of Sheffield Hallam's Centre for Sports and Exercise Science, said: "This study demonstrates that both the gender and weight status of a job applicant does have an impact on whether they are successful or not. Overall, the findings reveal that obese people are discriminated against when they are applying for employment and this discrimination gets worse as the physical requirements of the job increases. The results are particularly concerning for obese women, because the results show that obese females are discriminated against more than obese men.

"Where weight status has not been revealed and the candidate has not submitted a photo with their CV, they have been perceived as more suitable for employment than obese candidates.

"The findings are concerning and should be used as an opportunity to revisit and develop the current laws around discrimination in the workplace."

For press information: Sarah Duce in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2811 or email s.duce@shu.ac.uk