1 In 6 Women Lose Their Jobs Due To Endometriosis - Women's Health

1 In 6 Women Lose Their Jobs Due To Endometriosis

A new study on endometriosis has revealed the impact it has on women in the workplace, highlighting why so many Australian women are reluctant to raise the issue with their employers.

Endometriosis is a chronic menstrual health disorder that affects at least one in nine women in Australia. For many, the chronic illness is a debilitating one and with no cure, sufferers rarely receive the medical attention and care they deserve. While treatment options are available and vary depending on the individual, the fact remains that endometriosis is a silent illness – while others might not be able to see your pain physically, it’s still there. And when it comes to the workplace, this has a significant impact on women as a study reveals one in three Aussie women with endometriosis have reportedly been passed over for promotion. Similarly, one in six women reported being fired due to their attempts at managing their symptoms. 

The data comes from a new study conducted by Southern Cross University’s National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine and Western Sydney University’s NICM Health Research Institute. It was supported by Australia’s leading organisation for endometriosis research and education, Endometriosis Australia. 

In its survey of 389 women with a confirmed diagnosis of endometriosis, it was found that a lack of flexible arrangements in relation to work times or locations made it difficult for those trying to manage their symptoms, thereby creating greater difficulty and hardship in the workplace. Those who participated offered suggestions for companies looking to make their workplace more inclusive and accommodating of those suffering endometriosis. To assist those who have endometriosis, such suggestions include working from home, the introduction of 20-minute rest periods, access to healthcare benefits and healthcare services such as counselling, mindfulness or assisted exercise and access to physical aids like ergonomic chairs and heat packs. 

As Alexis Wolfe, CEO of Endometriosis Australia, these interventions are simple to implement but provide invaluable support for sufferers of endometriosis. “As the Covid experience has shown, creating a more flexible workplace can be a win-win for both the employer and employee, making it easier for women to manage their endometriosis, while also making them more productive and respected employees,” explained Wolfe. 

“The message is loud and clear, those with endometriosis are disadvantaged in a workplace that does not foster and support flexible working arrangements.” Wolfe added, “Workplaces need to create safe, confidential, and supportive environments for employees to share their experiences and find a balance that works for both parties.”

It’s something Southern Cross University Professor of Public Health, Dr Jon Wardle, also supports, having heard how endometriosis impacts the work life of women. “Nearly two-thirds of women had to take unpaid time off work to manage their endometriosis symptoms,” he said. 

In Australia, more than 830,000 women, girls, and those who identify as gender diverse have endometriosis, which occurs when the tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows outside it in other parts of the body. Symptoms include pelvic pain, long periods, painful bowel movements and nausea and vomiting. Recently, celebrities are opening up about their struggles with endometriosis and encouraging others to come forward to share their own stories. Amy Schumer documented her surgery to remove a large amount of endometrial tissue and two organs. 

As many continue to battle with endometriosis, it’s hoped that companies will learn from the adaptions made during the pandemic. As many companies moved to working from home arrangements which saw endometriosis sufferers thrive, many are hopeful that these new working arrangements will be applied to endometriosis sufferers so they might be supported in the workplace.

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