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Coping with endometriosis at work

Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK. It affects around 1 in 10 women, typically between puberty and menopause1. Therefore any symptoms tend to emerge during a woman’s most active working years, and when they have a family - or are trying to start one.

It can take around eight years to get an endometriosis diagnosis, and that’s a stressful journey. Symptoms can include chronic pain and fatigue, and the condition can disrupt daily routines, fertility and mental health. Time off work may be needed for coping with symptoms or for tests and treatment.

Some women feel no negative effects, and don’t want support from their employer. However, many find coping with endometriosis to be very challenging, especially in the midst of a busy life.

Be mindful of your symptoms

  • Check your knowledge of the main symptoms with our endometriosis quiz.
  • You might find it helpful to track the frequency and severity of your symptoms with our endometriosis symptoms diary (PDF,0.4MB)
  • Try to pace yourself when symptoms worsen, and rest when you can. Trying to carry on could simply lead to further problems.
  • Keep a supply of your endometriosis self-help remedies at work. Besides painkillers, depending on your job you may be able to use a hot water bottle or heat pad.

How to deal with an endometriosis flare up

Supportive colleagues can be a big help at work

If you’d like to support a colleague with endometriosis, here are some helpful things you could try

Our helpful guide offers tips and advice on supporting someone who has endometriosis:



 

 



How to manage your endometriosis symptoms at work

You don’t have to tell your manager you have endometriosis, but their understanding could help to relieve some of the stress you may be feeling. You’ll know best whether you feel you can open up. Below are some more tips that could help you manage your endometriosis at work.

Reach out to a supportive colleague

When you’re struggling with endometriosis at work it can be worth finding someone to confide in, who can listen and be supportive.

They might be a close colleague or a friend, but they could also be someone you least expect - but who understands endometriosis.

Perhaps your employer knows about multiple people coping with endometriosis at work. With everyone’s permission, they could put you in touch with one another for mutual support.

An understanding employer could make all the difference

"Employers must recognise endometriosis as a chronic and often extremely difficult condition to manage. It must never be trivialised and seen as a 'hormonally-difficult time' for the woman. It must be treated with sympathy." − HR Magazine

If you’re an employer, here are some tips for supporting employees who are coping with endometriosis at work.

  • Being understanding

  • Being flexible

  • Providing training

How Bupa can support you with endometriosis

We understand that it can be challenging to get a diagnosis and support for endometriosis. But we offer a range of options, whether you’re a Bupa member or not.

You’re under no obligation to tell anyone at work about your condition. However, if you feel that asking for repeated time off work is becoming uncomfortable, it may be better if someone in your workplace knows about it. That could be your boss or someone in HR, for example.

If you do feel able to talk about endometriosis more widely, opening up could help to promote wider understanding and support for yourself and other colleagues who may also have the condition.

If your endometriosis symptoms prevent you from working, you have the same rights as with any other illness.

You’re entitled to self-certify yourself from work in the event of a short period. You’d only need to talk to your GP if you think you’ll need to be off from work for longer than seven consecutive days. In that case, they may provide you with a 'statement of fitness to work’, which can give your employer information about any adaptations that might help you to attend work − or, if you’re unable to attend work, for however long that might be for.

Endometriosis is not classed as a disability in the UK. However, it is a chronic condition, which means it’s long-lasting, can be managed but can’t be cured, and can limit your quality of life. The more people who talk openly about endometriosis, the greater understanding we can build as a society.

Endometriosis is often characterised by 'flare-ups’. These are periods of time when your symptoms suddenly worsen, or new ones develop. These can be debilitatingly painful and are therefore likely to affect your ability to work.

Our tips are to use heat, rest, take medication, reduce any stress, adapt your routine, and record your symptoms and treatments. There’s more in our helpful endometriosis flare up infographic.

Endometriosis UK is the country’s leading charity for people with endometriosis. They launched the Endometriosis Friendly Employer scheme, whereby organisations commit to understanding the condition and providing support for employees who have it.

When a workplace signs up to be an Endometriosis Friendly Employer, among other things this means:

  • They receive regular newsletters highlighting best practice and keeping them up to date with endometriosis news.
  • They can participate in the 'Endometriosis Champions’ scheme, with an induction webinar and regular updates.
  • They get a copy of the book Endometriosis: The Experts' Guide to Treat, Manage and Live Well With Your Symptoms.

Resources offering information and support for endometriosis in the workplace

We recognise that endometriosis is a particularly challenging condition, and it can be hard to find information and support. So here are some websites that could help, whether you’re an employee living with endometriosis, a colleague or an employer.

^ Lines are open 8am - 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am-4pm Saturdays. We may record or monitor our calls.

1Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

2All-Party Parliamentary Group on Endometriosis (PDF, 1.7MB)

3PersonnelToday.com

†† Customers who live in the Isle of Man, or have a Bupa Standard, Bupa Premium or Bupa Your Choice policy, do not have access to Digital GP provided by Babylon, but can access GP24, provided by HealthHero (previously Medical Solutions)

Digital GP services are provided by Babylon Healthcare Services Limited. Registered in England and Wales No. 09229684. Registered office: 60 Sloane Avenue, London SW3 3DD. Bupa Digital GP Services is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Anytime HealthLine is provided by Bupa Occupational Health Limited. Registered in England and Wales No. 631336. Registered office: 1 Angel Court, London, EC2R 7HJ. Bupa Anytime HealthLine is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Bupa health insurance is provided by Bupa Insurance Limited. Registered in England and Wales No. 3956433. Bupa Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Arranged and administered by Bupa Insurance Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales No. 3829851. Registered office: 1 Angel Court, London, EC2R 7HJ.

We'd like to advise patients that many images and videos used throughout our website were taken and produced before the COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore social distancing rules and extra levels of PPE are not displayed.

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