How employers can support employees with endometriosis

21st March 2023

A key objective of the Government’s 10-year action plan to support the health and wellbeing of women and girls which was published in July 2022 is to make women feel that they can speak openly in the workplace about their health and feel confident they will be supported by their employer and colleagues. Another objective of the Government’s action plan is for women to feel supported at work when experiencing these health issues and for colleagues and employers to be better equipped to support them by the provision of information and awareness.

Endometriosis is a condition that only affects women and around 1 in 10 women are affected by the condition with 1.5 million women currently living with this condition in the UK. The condition can cause pain, inflammation, and scarring, as well as causing damage to the pelvic organs. The main symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods, chronic pelvic pain, fatigue, painful bowel movements and in some cases infertility.

In 2022 the condition cost the UK economy £8.2 billion* in loss of work and healthcare so better support in the workplace really could make a big difference to not only the employee but also the employer’s own productivity and profitability.

Unlike cancer and HIV which are automatically deemed to be a legal disability and therefore give automatic protection from discrimination to workers suffering from such illnesses, most illnesses don’t automatically qualify as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and instead the individual must satisfy the definition of a disabled person which is contained in the Act:

A person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Employees with endometriosis need to be able to prove that they satisfy this legal definition if they’re bringing a claim for disability discrimination. In terms of the condition, it is a physical impairment as it impacts women’s reproductive organs, it is long-term because unfortunately it is incurable which means it satisfies two parts of the legal definition of a disability but whether it substantially affects the womans ability to carry out day-to-day activities very much depends on each case. However, it is important to note that a tribunal will look at the impact on the woman without any medication or treatment.

Therefore, where employees with endometriosis satisfy the legal definition of a disabled person it gives the employee the protection from being discriminated against on the grounds of her endometriosis. As the employer you will have a statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments and to ensure the employee is not treated less favourably because of her condition and failing which the employee could potentially bring a claim in the employment tribunal. This condition has indeed been part of employment tribunal cases on a number of occasions in recent years.

Some examples of how employers can support employees going through conditions like endometriosis are:

  • Educate themselves on the conditions to better understand what effect this can have on employees and the support they may need
  • Providing training to staff, particularly HR and management, about managing health conditions in the workplace
  • Introduce a policy to specifically deal with reproductive issues in the workplace
  • Encourage a culture of openness to tackle the stigma of talking about reproductive health issues
  • Consider reasonable adjustments that the employee might need to ensure that their health isn’t putting them at a disadvantage
  • Conduct regular check-ins with employees to monitor their wellbeing and ensure they are supported
  • Offer support services whether that be an employee assistance program or direct employees to external sites or organisations for help and support

If you would like more information from our employment law experts, you can call them on 0161 832 3434 or see our team page Kuits Employment Law Services.

To watch our recent International Women’s Day HR Breakfast Webinar which covers this subject visit our YouTube channel here.


* Source: report by the APPG on endometriosis

21st March 2023

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