It is rare that two diverse subjects come together in daily life, but when they do the results where they meet can bring excellent insight into what can at first appear to be diverse needs or problems. In light of the reduced global economy post the credit-crunch induced recession, the media has brought light on the subjects of weight loss and job search.
Weight Loss and Job Search
Firstly, let us be clear: weight loss is almost inevitable during a job search. With families facing a reduce income, and the stress of finding and applying for jobs, inevitably calorific input will reduce and standing metabolic rate will increase, bringing about a short term loss in weight. For some who may not have been over weight in the first place, this can go too far and should be closely monitored. But when we live in a western culture where almost one third of people are medically overweight and a fifth technically obese, this may not necessarily be a bad thing.
Secondly, there is good academic research that overweight people perform less well at job interviews than those who are closer to a healthy weight. Why? Researchers agree that it is a combination of factors: low self esteem (probably increased due to the loss of a previous job); poor breath control adding to a poor interview technique; and in part interviewer bias. When in the current market employers are faced with a plethora of well qualified and skilled job applicants, then other factors do come into consideration as to whom they finally employ, including the job applicants current health. Many corporate employers now have compulsory health screening, and health risks of an individual will translate into higher insurance coverage costs, perhaps bringing an economic factor into job application rejection for those who are overweight.
Weight Loss Employment
In a recent article, a national daily newspaper highlighted such an economic driven employer choice over the employment of an obese person.
Employed in the highly skilled aeronautical maintenance industry, the 30 stone employee was a valued member of staff. The requirements of safe work access meant that all work was undertaken on either low raised stages or lifting platforms.
In Autumn 2009, the employee took a step from a Revitaa pro platform, which was 1foot of off the ground, and fell. Taken to hospital, he was found to have twisted his ankle; the employer made a claim under their liability insurance. After a four-week investigation during which the employee was not allowed to work, the insurance company effectively withdrew coverage around the employee (by raising the excess limit), on grounds of associated liability of his aid and assistance should he fall or injure himself again. Liability insurance is an essential of the aeronautical industry, meaning that the employee could only return to work in a lower skilled and hence lower paid office-based job. The company offered the employee the option of redundancy, which he took, and has since been unemployed for nine months.
However, there is a further twist: because he can technically work, the government are only paying him job seekers allowance and not disability benefit payments. This reduces his income by half, although until he loses weight, employers who presently take background checks are also concerned with their insurance liability coverage implications, even for non-aeronautical related positions.
Economic Weight Loss for Employment?
So is there an economic argument for weight loss surgery for employment? The UK’s Royal College of Surgeons thinks yes.
A study into bariatric surgery showed that if a quarter of obese patients had the size of their stomachs reduced, it would cost the NHS £546m. Analysis then by the Office of Health Economics estimated that the direct savings to the NHS would be £104M: a 5 year payback. But, as these people could now fully return to work, UK benefits payments would reduce by £482M per annum, and the increased economic activity from these now workers would increase UK GDP by £1.8billion, bringing national payback to below one year.
One can understand the original driver for such a study, enabling surgeons to retain budgets threatened by proposed budgetary constraint. According to the study, about 240,000 obese patients need and want weight-loss surgery on the NHS. But in 2009, just 3,600 actually had it.
However, the UK coalition Government has countered not with a direct address to the study, but with a consistent mantra of past administrations of all political colours. They prefer a long term and less intrusive method of weight loss based on a healthy balanced lifestyle of food education, exercise and self-restraint. The Health Minster commenting on the study said: “Our ambition is to encourage healthier lifestyles and reduce the need for this type of treatment.”