Obese staff have slim chance of promotion

Health problems are not the only added risk of piling on the pounds - research suggests obese workers are less likely to be promoted.

Published in BMC Public Health journal, the German research investigated the effect a few extra kilos has on decisions on who to hire and fire.

Involving 127 human resource professionals from a range of industries, participants were shown six photos of individuals differing in ethnicity, gender and body mass index. All subjects in the photos were aged between 40 and 50, and had a higher education.

The participants, who regularly made career decisions about other people, were asked questions, including who was most suitable to be short-listed for a supervisor position and who they would not consider for a job.

When asked who they would not hire, 42 per cent picked the obese woman while 19 per cent said the obese man. The non-ethnic normal-weight woman was least often disqualified from hiring consideration. When it came to a promotion, normal-weight candidates were almost five times more likely to be considered.

If both obese male and female candidates were compared, the man was more than seven times more likely to be considered.

The researchers noted that, while there were mild gender and race biases, weight produced by far the largest inequalities.

There was no gender bias for normal-weight candidates when considering a promotion, indicating the participants were aware of women being discriminated against in the workplace.

Human Resources Institute of New Zealand chief executive Beverley Main said a good HR professional would give the job or promotion to the most suitable person, regardless of external factors.

But it was true some people were prejudiced, even without knowing it, so the best way to solve the problem was to increase awareness.

The Dominion Post