Why Size Matters in the Workplace
If you don’t get a job based on your weight in the fashion or film industry, some would argue that would be fair enough as most of these roles require a certain image. But a lot of people are missing out on job opportunities because of their weight, according to a new study published by LinkedIn.
And it’s not just job seekers who are losing out. More than half (56%) of employers surveyed stated they believe they are missing out on talent due to discrimination against people because of their weight.
Ngaire Moyes, a spokesperson at LinkedIn, says:
We’ve seen a lot of discussion amongst the LinkedIn community and in the media about the stigma attached to weight. Our research suggests that bias based on weight is a factor in the modern workplace’.
British businesses have come a long way in terms of diversity and inclusion in recent years, and the journey continues. There is a great deal of understanding about the value diverse businesses can drive and the importance of creating an environment where inclusion and belonging is fostered. LinkedIn members have a number of groups and discussions on this topic on our platform. We want to support them along with employers in opening up the conversation around size bias at work to help understand how the issue can be tackled.
Whilst only 16% of employers stated there wasn’t a bias against those overweight, the research among professionals and job seekers shows that those UK workers classified as obese according to their BMI, earn £1,940 less per year than their slimmer colleagues. The study found that these attitudes are shifting over time, with 68% of employers believing that discrimination has decreased or stayed the same over the past five years.
Technology was identified as a driver of positive change, with 23% of employers stating virtual reality assessments and 19% stating screening candidates via bots as routes forward. One third (34%) of the employers surveyed stated that unconscious bias training was one of the ways to address weight bias in the workplace.
Interestingly, the research also shows that employers are more comfortable hiring a candidate that is deemed to be overweight compared to someone who wears too casual clothing (38%), has brightly dyed hair (28%) or visible tattoos (23%).
So what else can employers do to help tackle weight bias in the workplace?
Lottie L’Amour is plus sized blogger and advocate. She shares her tips on how employers can protect the safety and wellbeing of all of their employees.
Treat size diversity in the same way as other areas of diversity and inclusion by adding size diversity to your policy and consider metrics to measure progress.
Treat every employee – regardless of weight – the same, by not assuming what job functions or tasks they can or can’t do based on their body type.
Make sure that your job descriptions don’t include physical or weight requirements unless they are essential to performing a specific role.
Be sensitive when developing wellness and health programs – ensure you’re not putting too much emphasis on weight loss or changing someone’s physical appearance by making activities voluntary.
Educate your staff on what is and isn’t appropriate language to use when speaking about other employees appearances, especially around body shaming or appearance by holding workshops on positive, non-critical language.