Is Endometriosis a Disability?

  • Equality & Diversity
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

Having endometriosis can create problems for a person at home and in work. In some cases, it might even count as a disability (which we’ll come to later). That’s why providing that support is so important. In workplaces, the legal consequences for not doing so can be huge. So to learn how this condition really affects people and what the law defines as a disability, here’s what you need to know.

Endometriosis is a serious condition that involves far more than just “really bad periods”.

And because many people still don’t fully understand it, the topic can stir up misinformation and stigma.

One in ten women and those assigned female at birth have endometriosis. That’s according to official stats from Endometriosis UK.

But it’s a hard condition to diagnose. Symptoms can vary so much from person to person. And because symptoms cross over with other conditions, it’s easy to mistake it for something else.

Having endometriosis can create problems for a person at home and in work. In some cases, it might even count as a disability (which we’ll come to later).

That’s why providing that support is so important. In workplaces, the legal consequences for not doing so can be huge. So, to learn how this condition really affects people and what the law defines as a disability, here’s what you need to know.

Is endometriosis a disability?

Endometriosis is a chronic and debilitating condition. It occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows in other areas of the body, causing chronic pain in the sufferer. It can make managing day to day life difficult. And in some cases, it may count as a disability by law.

Some health conditions like cancer count as a disability from diagnosis. But it’s not as clear cut for conditions like endometriosis.

Endometriosis affects everyone differently. Some people suffer more than others - to the point where they may receive disability benefits. That’s why you have to look at cases individually to see whether the condition meets the legal definition of a disability.

In employment law terms, a disability is:

“a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out carry out normal day to day activities.”

In plain English, this means the impairment must seriously affect your employee’s life in a bad way. It must be long-term. So it should have lasted or is likely to last at least 12 months. It may even last for the rest of the person’s life. It must also make it difficult for your employee to carry out normal activities. Working life could be one of them.

How Peninsula can help you support employees with endometriosis

Your employee might have endometriosis, but they don't need to deal with it alone.

With Peninsula's help, we can ensure you provide the best work environment for staff with endometriosis, as well ensuring you comply with all aspects of employment law, and Health & Safety legislation.

When you work with Peninsula, you have access to:

  • 24/7 advice: No matter the time, day, or problem - if you've got a question regarding Health & Safety and HR, we've got you covered.
  • Documentation services: Our employment law experts will craft all the relevant documentation your workplace needs to ensure its compliance. And if you want to introduce a new policy - we can help you create that too.
  • Employee Assistance Programme (EAP): Supporting employee wellbeing is made much simpler with our EAP. The service includes 24/7 counselling, in-person therapy sessions, as well as a suite of online tools to help your workers stay happy and healthy.

What does the law say about endometriosis?

Having endometriosis doesn’t automatically give your staff extra legal rights - but in the wider scheme, it might.

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal to treat someone unfairly for having certain characteristics. There are nine protected characteristics under discrimination law – but in this case, we’ll focus on two:

Sex discrimination

Endometriosis only affects women and those assigned female at birth.

So failing to support employees with the condition could put you at risk of sex discrimination.

Discrimination can happen directly and indirectly. If your workplace has rules that disadvantage some employees because of their sex, this could be a form of sex discrimination. Your company rules might apply to everyone. But any rules that leave certain staff members worse off could be indirectly discriminating.

One example of this might be having a blanket ban on flexible working. Research shows that women tend to take on the bulk of childcare duties. So, they manage their work life around this accordingly. In this case, a flexible working ban could be putting them at a disadvantage.

The same could be said for staff who request flexible working to manage symptoms of endometriosis. If you refuse requests because of company policy, they might accuse you of discrimination.

Disability discrimination

Not taking steps to support staff who have endometriosis could also be a form of disability discrimination.

In employment law, endometriosis could count as a disability if it meets certain criteria. To see if it does, you have to judge on a case by case basis.

What happens if you don’t take the right steps to support staff?

If your employee’s condition does count as a disability, then you have a legal duty to take steps to support them in work. You have to make changes for an employee if you know – or it’s reasonable that you should know – that they have a disability.

This might involve allowing flexible working arrangements. It might also mean providing facilities and equipment. It’s about finding ways to help your employee carry out their job role to the best of their ability.

If your employee has a long-term health condition or disability, they need to know support is there if they need it.

If they don’t, they might claim for discrimination. They might also be able to claim for constructive dismissal. That’s if they quit because they feel they couldn’t get the right support to meet their needs.

Legal claims then lead to costly fines and irreparable damage to your reputation.

How can you be a supportive employer?

There are ways to avoid legal risk and support your employees.

Firstly, educating yourself is key. So to learn more about the ways you can support employees who have endometriosis in your workplace, have a read of our guide below.

Want to find out more about how you can help them? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with a Health & Safety consultant today.


Got a question? Check whether we’ve already answered it for you…

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