Employers are being warned not to be influenced by new findings that obese employees are more likely to take sick leave.

Human resources and employment law experts at HR Team are advising employers not to lose sight of employment legislation following the publication of a report that states overweight people are more likely to take sick leave.

Spanish researchers have found that overweight and obese people are also more likely to suffer an occupational injury.

The ICARIA study investigated the health and number of sick days taken by 174, 000 employees.

But although the findings are backed by science, employers should ignore them when dealing with sick leave situations in the workplace, says HR Team director Martina McAuley.

“Even though there is medical evidence to support the claims that overweight and obese workers are prone to sick days, employers need to be mindful of employment legislation and should not use this research to discriminate in anyway against overweight and obese workers or prospective workers.

“Although obesity itself is not a protected characteristic if employees/prospective employees have a disability as a result of their weight this may result in successful claims for indirect discrimination.

“We would recommend that if employees have concerns that they seek a professional opinion to ensure they do not fall foul of equality legislation.”