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Endometriosis in the workplace: Two teachers share their story

Endometriosis UK is working with employers and the Government to ensure that those with endometriosis are given the support they need to thrive in the workplace.

We sadly hear all too often that people aren’t getting the support they need in the workplace. Our latest statistics, from a survey of 2,000 people with endometriosis ahead of Endometriosis Awareness Month this March, found that 62% of people would be concerned about telling their employer they had endometriosis, and 77% would be concerned about not being believed by their employer or accused of taking unnecessary time of work.

We are delighted to have launched an Endometriosis Friendly Employer Scheme to work with employers directly on what support can be provided. Find out more here.

In this blogpost, we speak anonymously to a current and former teacher, with very different experiences. Both are passionate about campaigning for teachers to become ‘Endometriosis Friendly Employers’, so that teachers have access to the necessary support to help them thrive in their career.

*Please note names have been changed in this article.

Lucy has now been a teacher for 8 years – and was diagnosed with endometriosis during her training. She said: “My school was incredibly understanding about my condition. They asked questions to find out how they could support me, and have never questioned when I have needed time off. Luckily my condition is managed with the contraceptive pill, and my pain flare ups have minimal since having surgery to remove endometriosis in my bowel. Being a teacher and on your feet all day can be really difficult, and I have been known to have a hot water bottle on my lap whilst teaching. This isn’t easy and people have often asked questions but with the right support you can continue your career. It’s not as easy as working in an office job where you can run to the toilet when you might be having a leak or standing up all day when you have fatigue. My advice would be to talk to your school about your endometriosis and what support you need and have a conversation with them”.

Unfortunately getting the right support isn’t the case for everyone.

In our next story, we speak to a former primary teacher who worked in schools in Essex and Suffolk. She was sadly forced to give up her career as felt that she wasn’t given the right support in the workplace. This is her story:

"It is incredibly important for schools to sign up as Endometriosis Friendly Employers – a lot of teachers with endometriosis may feel a mixture of embarrassment and concern about feeling they are not up to the job because of their condition.  

I would have opened up sooner if I had known my school was an Endometriosis Friendly Employer and I am sure other teachers with endometriosis would feel the same.

Signing up to the Scheme would mean that schools gain more awareness and understanding of endometriosis and how to support teachers with it. There also needs to be further help from the Government to encourage schools to assist teachers with endometriosis. Simple adjustments could be made to support teachers with endometriosis – for example having more breaks, working in a classroom within a close proximity to a toilet, and access to pastoral care. This would help prevent talented teachers from leaving the profession due to endometriosis or other menstrual health conditions.

I found it extremely hard to manage having endometriosis as a teacher. I was in a lot of pain and not just during my periods. I remember on many occasions wanting to double up in pain and lie down but I couldn’t as I had about thirty children in front of me. I put on a brave face day after day and worked all hours despite being in so much pain. I had the humiliating anxiety of wondering whether I was leaking on a heavy period and not being able to go to the toilet to sort it out. I would go so far as to say I wasn’t really managing it at all. Just trying to mask the awful symptoms. In the end, I handed my resignation in because I knew I couldn’t continue teaching as a result of my endometriosis.

There is not enough support in the workplace for teachers with endometriosis or other menstrual health conditions. More must be done to make sure teachers are given the support they need”.

Endometriosis UK is determined to see stories like this become a thing of the past – so that everyone has access to the support they need to fulfil their career of choice.

A huge thank you to these two women for sharing their experience.

Picture of a primary school classroom from Unsplash