Endometriosis in the workplace - The Problems of Working with Endometriosis
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition which affects 1.5 million women in the UK who are of child bearing age. Endometriosis occurs when the lining of the uterus is found in other parts of the body such the fallopian tubes, and in/around the bowel and bladder. The lining sticks and attaches itself to other organs growing like weeds in a garden.
Endometriosis is a complex, reoccurring and extremely debilitating condition causing chronic pain to those who suffer. Women who suffer with the condition find that it can affect most, if not all aspects of their life. Medical professionals are currently unable to offer any cure for the condition. Medical professionals are uncertain as to how an individual develops such a condition and are uncertain of the full symptoms and side effects as many women have noted many reoccurring side effects that cannot as yet be fully connected to Endometriosis. Many women go undiagnosed for a very long time with the average time recently being published as long 7.5 years.
What are the current identified symptoms?
- Stomach and back pain
- Digestive and bowel malfunctions
- Chronic fatigue
- Weight management difficulties
- Pain when going to the toilet during the menstrual cycle
- Painful intercourse
- Pain during ovulation
- Problems conceiving
- Heavy periods
Is it treatable?
As stated above at this time there is no current cure for this condition. There are respite options available to suffers which can offer some long or midterm relief. If you suspect you are suffering with this condition it is important your GP is aware as soon as possible. Possible assistance for this condition can be:
- Contraception this may be the Pill, Injections, Coil etc.
- Hormone balancing medication, this may be in the form of injections, oral or patches.
- Surgery to slow the endometriosis growth down
- A hysterectomy
Some women have found it useful to keep a symptom diary to present to their GP.
The symptoms of endometriosis are largely unseen causing a lot of women to experience problems at work if they have ill-informed or unsympathetic employers. There is very little awareness and knowledge with regards to the condition therefore many individuals are perceived by their employers to be ‘taking the micky’ for requesting time off or adjustments to their roles for what is seen to be simple ‘women related problems’. It is this misconception that has caused many women who suffer with Endometriosis the loss of employment, repeatedly having to attend capability/disciplinary meetings with being ostracised and isolated.
When taking into consideration the definition within Equality Act 2010 which affords protection to those with disabilities it is arguable that Endometriosis could constitute a disability. Under the Equality Act 2010 a person is disabled if he or she has a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry our normal day-to-day activities.
Legally, employees with disabilities should not be treated less favourably than non disabled persons. This may mean giving allowances for time off, providing light duties during episodes of pain and adjustments to their workload. If a person is treated less favourably and/or an employer fails to put into place ‘reasonable adjustments’ individuals may be able to present claims of discrimination.
Endometriosis sufferer and campaigner Sinead Smyth has been campaigning to make this condition more publically aware. Sinead has recently shared her story with the BBC advising that she had to visit her local A & E department some 200 times and had to undergo multiple medical procedures and operations, with misdiagnosis before finding out the reason for her intense pain was Endometriosis. As a consequence of her condition Sinead herself lost two jobs because she was miss-classed as unreliable after having to ring in sick due to the pain she was in.
Lawson-West, empathising with endometriosis sufferers.
Lawson-West Solicitors Employment expert, Carrie-Ann Randall, has personal experience of this condition and is working hard to raise awareness, particularly for women who have faced workplace discrimination due to suffering with Endometriosis.
She comments: “I first began to experience intense pain around 16 years ago. I was young and not aware of Endometriosis. The pain was incredible, so intense. After a while of realising it was not usual to experience such pain, I arranged to see my GP. This, like many women’s stories was not the first time I ended up having to attended my GP for assistance. I was diagnosed with Endometriosis in 2011 some 10 years after first seeking medical help. I underwent most of the options available to try to combat and reduce the condition to no avail. Over the years I learnt that it was not only Endometriosis that I suffered with as like many women the condition had paved the way for other associated conditions. This is not something that people are aware of and fully empathise and understand. Regrettably I have had to undergo radical options to try to combat the condition. I am aware first hand how women struggle to cope, function and perform at the same pace as non disabled employees. I have been very lucky having a very aware and supportive employer but most do not. I am hopeful that working with women like Sinead, we can provide the necessary awareness to prevent this type of discrimination being prevalent in the workplace”
If you can relate to this and are struggling to get people to understand your situation, call our Employment team today and see how they can help you. Simply call 01858 445480 and a member of our employment team will be happy to talk.