Helen Martin: Experts tip scales in favour of bosses

If employers can tell staff they are overweight, where does the personal criticism stop? Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
If employers can tell staff they are overweight, where does the personal criticism stop? Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
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PERSONAL freedom was once a hallmark of western democracy. We would sneer at the tough, Communist regimes of the USSR and China, dictating everything from how much citizens could earn to how many children they could have.

Now there are plans to have the Scottish state figure out how much alcohol each individual consumes, have state guardians for children whether parents go along with the idea or not, and to tell us what we should and shouldn’t eat. Bad enough when the “state” is taking control of individuals. But now a summit of Scottish health, business and economic “experts” convened to discuss obesity, is suggesting employers and managers should take on the responsibility of telling a member of staff that they are visibly overweight, and sending them to weight-loss services.

The Pakora Bar has fallen foul of planners

The Pakora Bar has fallen foul of planners

Apparently this is crucial to the economy. Obesity costs the NHS a lot of money and it also leads to more sick days and lower productivity in the work place. Hence the ludicrous idea of involving workplace managers.

There have been several cases recently of firms being disgraced by insisting their female staff wear skirts and high heels rather than trousers and sensible flats.

There have been industrial tribunals based on bullying and managers making disparaging comments about a staff member’s physical appearance.

It’s also a rather naïve assumption that a manager will be a slim Jim or Janet and a worker will be a porky Pete or Patsy when it’s just as likely to be the other way round. And if it’s a manager’s job to point out their staff member appears (in their amateur view) to be too fat, where does such personal criticism stop?

The practicalities of this utterly moronic suggestion, and the many reasons why it couldn’t work, let alone the conflict it would cause in the office, all contribute to its guaranteed failure.

But added to that is the continuing erosion of an employee’s status, dignity, and independence. Since the virtual demise of trades union protection of workers, thanks largely to Mrs Thatcher, we have progressed along the track of lower wages failing to keep up with the cost of living, zero hours contracts, longer hours regardless of working hours directives, increasing workloads with no commensurate rewards, some employees having to ask permission to visit the toilet as if they were Primary 1 pupils, the unofficial obliteration of lunch breaks and too many more “sins” to list.

Yes, we all know it is healthier to be of average weight and obesity carries increased risks of disease. But at an individual level it’s personal, something one may wish to discuss with a doctor or nurse, a friend, or a sibling. But unless the job requires a specific weight range, it’s simply none of the manager’s business.

A manager is not a superior being. They may have more experience of the job or be a grade or two higher, that’s it. Giving them a licence to insult and embarrass a member of staff about their shape or weight is another step back to Dickensian mills and factories when manners, courtesy and respect were not extended to the workforce.

The problem with experts is they may be informed about their own particular field. That doesn’t mean to say they are gifted with common sense.

Heritage in eye of the beholder

PLANNING officers in the city council have demanded the Singh brothers repaint their Pakora Bar on Hanover Street because it is “bright green”, “visually intrusive” and not in keeping with the conservation area.

Well, like many planning decisions to approve or reject, that seems like a very subjective and final judgement. It’s actually a pale, warm green, quite “heritage” in tone. Perhaps the planners don’t like the traditional “shoulders” of the frontage painted in orange with a touch of gold; perhaps they’d like the railings returned to standard black.

I can understand the need to keep the World Heritage Site looking classy but there are many more approved yet lurid frontages around the New Town. There should be more room in planning for reasonable negotiation and compromise.

Act locally when thinking globally

GLOBALISATION is a hot topic with older people around the world beginning to use elections to vote against it and younger people embracing the idea of being a world citizen.

Unfortunately the expectation of free movement has lulled some under-35s into a false sense of security rendering them completely unaware that values still differ massively between countries.

A 25-year-old British girl was gang-raped in Dubai and naively reported her attack to local police – which resulted in her being charged with having sex outside marriage and having her passport confiscated.

That’s the way things work in Dubai. What she should have done was report to the British Consulate there, especially as her attackers were British men, and left the police out of it.

The world may be shrinking, but knowing where you are going, swotting up on the customs, the do’s and don’ts and the dangers is still as necessary now as it was on a Grand Victorian Tour.

Drinking like it’s the 1970s

LAMBRUSCO is back on supermarket wine shelves and selling well. . . jaw-dropping news on a par with Trump’s victory for those old enough to remember the 70s. It’s improved and drier. The question is, will it still go with a grapefruit hedgehog and a prawn cocktail?