Eating Disorders in the Workplace

What’s the issue?

We estimate that 1.25 million people in the UK are suffering from an eating disorder. Between sufferers themselves and their friends and relatives who may be supporting them, many people affected by eating disorders are members of the UK workforce.

A person’s needs may change as a result of their illness in terms of both their hours and workload. People with eating disorders are protected under the Equality Act 2010, and legally, an employer is obliged to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that they can access and progress in employment. However, in a survey Beat carried out in the months leading up to Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2016, more than 30% of respondents reported feeling stigmatised or discriminated against because of their eating disorder at work.

Our campaign aims

We know people face discrimination, stigma and misunderstanding when they are affected by an eating disorder at work, but support and understanding in this area can make a huge difference. We intended to increase awareness of the issues that people with eating disorders or taking care of someone with an eating disorder face.

What we did

For Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2016, we carried out a survey of over 600 people who had suffered an eating disorder while at work, to learn more about the impacts of eating disorders in the workplace. The results showed that, in addition to over 30% feeling that they were stigmatised or discriminated against, more than four in five respondents felt their colleagues were not informed about eating disorders, and almost two in five described their employer’s impact on their recovery as “unhelpful”.

What you can do

Beat continues to work to raise awareness of the issues people with eating disorders face in the workplace. You can help by:

  • Distributing literature such as our Tips posters, which raise awareness of the signs of eating disorders.
  • Getting in touch about having an Ambassador come in to give a talk in your workplace.
  • Receive training on eating disorders for the workplace.
  • Familiarising yourself with the legal rights of people with eating disorders who work, and with the legal obligations of employers.