In Australia, one in nine people with a uterus "suffer from endometriosis at some point in their life", according to Endometriosis Australia. There's also a six-and-a-half year gap between getting symptoms and being diagnosed.
Yet, a new study shows that one in seven Australians are fired for managing their endometriosis, and 64 per cent feel judged when trying to manage symptoms.
In case you missed it, endometriosis is a condition where tissue that's similar to the lining of a uterus appears in other parts of the body, and it's this rogue tissue that gets shed during a period.
That's the technical way to describe it, but as someone with endo, I can tell you that it bloody hurts.
I'm lucky enough to only have the lowest level of this condition, and (from what I've heard) only experience a fraction of the pain some other people with this condition do.
Yet, some months, getting out of bed is incredibly hard. I can't think through the pain of my aching lower back and intense cramping, so even if I'm at work, it's impossible to be productive. Other months my brain still functions, but being anywhere except in bed with painkillers and a hot water bottle is torture. Other months still, I'm more or less totally fine — endo is a weird beast.
So it's not at all shocking to me that endo has been associated with a loss of productivity in the workplace. What is shocking, is that this chronic condition negatively impacts employment.
Which is why this joint study by Southern Cross University, Western Sydney University, and Endometriosis Australia sought to discover what changes need to be made in workplaces.
The study involved 389 Aussies currently living with endo. Respondents were asked about changing work practices (like working from home) since the start of the pandemic, and how it affected productivity.
"Nearly all women with endometriosis in our study said their endometriosis had a significant impact on their work-life, with nearly two-thirds of women having to take unpaid time off work to manage their endometriosis symptoms," said senior author Professor Jon Wardle.
"Not having flexible arrangements in relation to work times or work locations to manage endometriosis symptoms appropriately creates hardships in the workplace for women with endometriosis, with more than half the women in our study identifying this as a problem."
The good news — yet another benefit of flexible work arrangements and working from home — is that 80 per cent of respondents felt that Covid-19 related changes in their workplaces had made it easier to manage symptoms.
As such, the study has made recommendations for ongoing workplace practices to make things easier on sufferers of this chronic condition — like continued flexibility in work hours and location.
Besides those who get fired, one in three are passed over for a promotion due to their condition and 70 per cent of sufferers have had to take unpaid time off work.