How to Deal With Weight Bias and Discrimination at Work

By Aisling O’Toole

Policies and structures ensuring an equal and diverse workplace have been a priority for many companies, and governments, over the past decade.

It’s now illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender, age, race or religion, and yet new research shows that 12% of employees feel that they have been discriminated against because of their weight. Which raises the question––is tackling weight bias and discrimination at work the last hurdle?

The research, which was released by the Society for Human Resource Management, also shows that 50% of managers admit that they prefer interacting with employees of an average, and healthy size compared to those who are considered overweight or obese.

Interestingly, these statistics also impact earning power, with studies showing that women who are overweight earn considerably less than their healthy sized colleagues––both male and female.

In addition to this very real, and still legal, discrimination, overweight employees are often left to deal with the biases of their colleagues, with studies showing that a percentage of workers believe their overweight colleagues to be lacking in willpower, discipline and motivation.

Further studies also show that heavier people are less likely to be hired or, when in a role, considered for promotion.

Public sentiment towards overweight people is so insidious that a conscious effort to combat it is needed. So how can employers combat weight bias and discrimination in the workplace?

State The Obvious

When inducting new staff members or updating a company handbook, include that weight is included as a topic around which discrimination will not be tolerated.

You can’t heal what you won’t reveal, and so for companies to tackle weight bias head on, it needs to be discussed openly as a factor as important as race, age or gender in terms of discrimination.

Be Inclusive

Look at your hiring policies. Audit your workforce and your hiring managers who may be dealing with subconscious biases themselves.

While tokenism is not the solution, adopting an inclusive and diverse hiring policy is. Working in the beauty industry has traditionally been presented in one way, but the world has changed and so too must hiring policies.

In fact, having a more diverse and inclusive workforce has been shown to impact productivity and staff morale. If people feel free to be themselves and to be accepted in the workplace, they’re going to do their best work. 

Be Informed

Weight gain can be caused by a variety of factors including medical issues, so it’s important that employers offer education to workers during induction.

It’s also imperative that companies offer training on bias and overt discrimination regularly and encourage a “speak up” environment where workers can have a conversation if they feel themselves or a colleague is being unfairly treated because of their weight.

Know Your Worth

And for workers, it’s important that you don’t stay working for an employer who neither values your talent nor contributions to the company just because of your weight.

If you’re working in such a place, the Professional Beauty Job Board is full of inclusive companies looking to hire beauty professionals across all sectors and skill levels.  Discover three vacant roles below.

Store Manager, The Body Shop, Doncaster

Since it was founded in the 1970s The Body Shop has stood by its mantra of doing business for good––and this translates to its workforce, with employees encouraged to break the mold in keeping with the company’s policies and take part in their diversity initiatives. The Body Shop is looking for a Store Manager for its Doncaster branch to drive the store and the team to deliver retail excellence, strong sales results and engaging customer experience. The successful candidate will have five years’ retail experience. Find more information here.

Store Manager, Aesop, Sydney

Aesop prides itself on its inspiring and inclusive environment in which our employees are supported and encouraged to thrive and it is currently looking for a Store Manager for its Paddington store. Working full-time on-site on a Tuesday-Saturday roster, the successful candidate will be responsible for budgeting, store-specific marketing, and building the store’s client base, as well as choreographing the daily activities of a team of retail consultants. The successful candidate will be a skilled professional, able to grace this role with diligence, passion, and an unwavering commitment to excellence. Find more information here.

Department Manager, Sephora, Sydney

Known for its robust DE&I policies and inclusive workforce, Sephora is currently hiring for a Sydney store. As a Department Manager (Senior Beauty Advisor), you’ll support the store manager and assistant store manager in leading the team in a fast-paced and exciting retail environment to deliver an unbeatable client experience. Applicants should have previous retail experience at a Big Box company, a passion for all things beauty and at least three years’ experience in management. Find more information here.

Explore the Professional Beauty Job Board to find your perfect fit

This article was produced in partnership with Jobbio.

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