HR Expert: Endometriosis
A client has approached me regarding an employee who has disclosed that they are struggling with the symptoms of endometriosis. The employee has asked if they can work from home on the days that they feel particularly bad. My client is considering this, and would like some advice.

They have also asked if there is anything else they can do to become an endometriosis friendly employer. Another employee has previously disclosed they have endometriosis, but as far as my client is aware it has never impacted their work.

Endometriosis affects one in 10 women, and those assigned female at birth, from puberty to menopause. Around 1.5 million people in the UK are living with the condition and experience symptoms such as chronic pelvic pain, bladder and bowel problems, heavy and painful periods, fatigue, depression or anxiety, abdominal bloating, nausea and difficulties getting pregnant. Your client is therefore not alone in managing an employee living with this, and there are a number of ways to support they can consider.

It is important to note that the symptoms and impacts of endometriosis vary significantly between individuals, with some experiencing limited side effects and others suffering with severe symptoms which impact daily activities. For many, flare-ups pose huge difficulties as there are no triggers or patterns which individuals can prepare for and manage. As such, your client must treat employees with this as individuals, dealing with them on a case-by-case basis.

March is endometriosis month, and the charity Endometriosis UK is running a campaign helping employers to develop a culture that supports those affected by this disease, arguing that the employer ultimately benefits through the development of engagement and effectiveness amongst its staff. A number of major employers have signed up to this, including HSBC UK and M&S Bank.

There are a number of measures that can be taken by employers looking to support their staff in this.

Flexible working
Adopting an accommodating attitude to flexible working arrangements allows employees with chronic conditions like endometriosis to feel confident and comfortable in the workplace. On days where they experience a flare-up of symptoms, allowing homeworking means an employee can maintain normal output and avoid a loss in pay but work in conditions that alleviate pain and discomfort. Not only does this benefit the employee, but your client will also reap the rewards of not having to find last-minute cover or face wider problems associated with long-term absences.

Other useful flexible working arrangements include hybrid working, changes to working hours, changes to start/finish times and providing lighter duties or amended responsibilities.

Reasonable adjustments
Endometriosis has the potential to be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if it has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. If this is the case for your client’s employee, they have a legal duty to consider reasonable adjustments and could face claims of disability discrimination if they don’t.

Endometriosis UK recommends reasonable adjustments including reducing workloads, allowing extra breaks, providing special equipment, giving time off for medical appointments (including when these are last minute) and adjusting absence trigger points. Holding regular welfare meetings with the employee is the best way to identify what support measures would be the most effective.

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