The Cost of Hiring Obese Employees

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Being overweight doesn’t just affect your health, it also could affect your career.

A new study from King’s College London found that obese employees take four more days of sick time each year than the average worker. According to LiveScience, an online science publication, the researchers analyzed more than 600 employees from a British public transportation company and found that obese workers are at a higher risk for “short-term absences” from illnesses like the flu.

“While the researchers don't know for sure why obese people have a higher risk for short-term absences, they have some speculations. It might be that obese people are more susceptible to infections and take longer to recover from them,” LiveScience reports.

Ultimately, the goal of the study is to make businesses aware of the cost of hiring obese workers so that they may come up with ways to incentivize their employees to lose weight. In fact, some companies already to have a proactive policy for dealing with weight issues in the work place. As we’ve reported before, one chain of hospitals in Indiana will actually penalize workers for being overweight by docking $10 from their paycheck. At the time, this proposal was considered controversial and a bit insensitive, but today it may just be essential. The U.S. government recently announced that 72 million Americans are obese, and that number is on the rise.

Yet, the study could also have other implications. If businesses are aware that an overweight employee will be sick more often, that could provide a disincentive to hire the employee in the first place, given that the employee may be viewed as less productive and more of a liability. To make things worse, this may only fuel other existing prejudice some businesses have against hiring certain people. Attractive workers, for example, are typically favored during the hiring process and often times are paid more than other workers.

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