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Why employers need to address endometriosis in the workplace

BY Dearbhail Ormond

19th Mar 2024 Health Conditions

3 min read

Why employers need to address endometriosis in the workplace
Employers are being urged to be more supportive of employees with chronic conditions like endometriosis in the workplace to help close the gender health gap
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, a time for us to raise awareness for the chronic condition that affects one in ten women of reproductive age. Dearbhail Ormond, Founder and CEO of frendo, takes a closer look at what needs to change.

What is endometriosis?

Woman with endometriosis in bed
Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the entire body, characterised by persistent pain, severe fatigue, and sometimes infertility. Without proper treatment, the consequences can be detrimental, including organ dysfunction, nerve impairment, and bowel blockages.
The condition is very unpredictable and therefore endometriosis sufferers may seem well at times, only to experience a sudden onset of excruciating and distressing symptoms. This variability is challenging for people to manage in their personal lives, but is often even more challenging to manage in the workplace. 

Many workplaces are unsupportive of chronic conditions like endometriosis

To support the health and wellbeing of female workers in the UK, significant steps have been taken in recent years. For example, last year new standards were introduced for menopause and menstrual health in the workplace. However, conditions like endometriosis continue to be overlooked. Research by frendo, an endometriosis support app, found that 20 per cent of women feel their workplaces are unsupportive of chronic health conditions.
"Many employees with endometriosis are fearful of raising the issue in the workplace, which means they often suffer in silence"
Unfortunately, many employees with endometriosis are fearful of raising the issue in the workplace, which means they are often suffering in silence instead. Research has shown that endometriosis sufferers have been excluded and overlooked as a result of the disease, and one in six women have lost their jobs because of endometriosis symptoms.
Additionally, frendo’s research found that almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of endometriosis sufferers were told they were lying about their symptoms, significantly affecting people’s mental health, and more than half (51 per cent) claim it to have negatively affected their careers. 

First-hand experience—I was made redundant because of the condtion

Dearbhail Ormond
As someone with stage four endometriosis, I have first-hand experience of the disregard for the condition in the workplace. I have always been very career-driven. Because of my condition, I was told by many doctors that I wouldn’t be able to conceive (which fortunately turned out to be untrue), so I dedicated a substantial amount of my time to my career. 
"Unfortunately, I had to take time off work for a laparoscopic surgery for the removal of endometriosis"
Unfortunately, I had to take time off work for a laparoscopic surgery for the removal of endometriosis. My recovery was going well, but it took a sudden turn. At first, my employer appeared to be supportive, informing me that I could avail of the company’s WFH programme while I recuperated. However, shortly after I was made redundant. Prior to this there had been no budget issues within the business unit and no performance issues. In fact, management had discussed a promotion with me a few weeks prior to my surgery. 
I am not alone as there are many other women who have had similar experiences to me, which is what inspired me to create frendo@work, the first-of-its-kind workplace support programme for endometriosis.

frendo@work aims to promote health equity in the workplace

frendo is an endometriosis support app. Credit: frendo
Without informed support and appropriate resources in place, the condition has a significant impact on productivity, which not only impacts the employee but can also impact an organisation’s bottom line. 
If we look at an organisation with 5000 employees and a gender ratio of 2500 females, ten per cent of those have endometriosis (plus even more with suspected symptoms of endometriosis that we don't consider in this calculation). Based on a minimum wage, the cost of endometriosis to that organisation is a minimum of £130k per month/ £1.6 million per year. 
frendo@work assesses these costs for employers and provides a support programme to mitigate them. It also supports workplaces in implementing an endometriosis policy as part of a company-wide positive culture shift.
Additionally, frendo@work addresses the lack of tools and expertise internally to assist with health conditions such as endometriosis by providing businesses with the necessary resources to support employees with the condition, as well as the broader organisation. This includes company workshops, self-management tools, and scientifically supported resources. Moreover, it provides guidance for line managers to enhance their ability to support and communicate effectively with staff members affected by the condition.
Meanwhile, employees can access frendo’s endo screening, tracking and community support through the frendo app, along with expert-led resources on nutrition, fertility, pain management, pelvic health, breathwork and communication. 

Businesses have a responsibility to prioritise the health and wellbeing of their employees

By facilitating access to adequate healthcare resources and fostering awareness and understanding among colleagues, employers can significantly enhance the wellbeing and productivity of their workforce.
Moreover, extending support to employees aligns with overarching objectives of diversity, equity, and inclusion, thus playing a vital role in nurturing an inclusive workplace.
"Businesses have a responsibility to prioritise employee health with supportive policies"
Ultimately, businesses have a responsibility to prioritise the health and wellbeing of their employees by implementing supportive policies, providing resources, and fostering a culture of understanding and inclusivity. 
We’re at an inflection point—now it’s time for more businesses to step up.
Banner photo: Employers' attitudes towards employees with endometriosis needs to change
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