Endometriosis - is it a disability?

Monday, July 17, 2017
collage of women holding placards saying how long it took to get a diagnosis

There has been a lot of social media activity around the recent response to a petition titled: 'Teresa May recognises Endometriosis under the 2010 Equality Act'. We thought it would be useful for us to clarify the outcome of this petition and also to outline Endometriosis UK's view on endometriosis as a disability.

The phrase 'Teresa May recognises Endometriosis under the 2010 Equality Act' is misleading - it is the title of the petition, not something that has happened. It does not mean that endometriosis is now automatically recognised as a disability, in fact very few long term conditions/diseases are. This is because long term conditions, such as endometriosis, have such varying impacts on peoples' lives. 

Nothing has changed. The response to the petition states, "If any person has a condition whose effect falls within the definition of a disability, the Act will confer on them a number of protections, such as protection from direct discrimination or benefitting from the requirement that an employer or service provider make reasonable adjustments for that person. This will apply to women with endometriosis in the same way that it would apply to people with any other condition that would meet the criteria for a disability."

In brief, decisions will be made on individual circumstances as to whether a person meets the criteria for a disability. This has always been the case. An individual who has endometriosis will not automatically be deemed disabled. Individuals wishing to access disability benefits will be assessed against the criteria outlined by the Department for Work and Pensions. Applicants will be independently assessed to see if they qualify for disability benefits.

Endometriosis UKs stance is that endometriosis should not automatically be seen as a disability. For many women, endometriosis is extremely disabling and prevents them from carrying out day to day activities. However, there are many women who are able to carry out day to day activities. Women may be disadvantaged by endometriosis being recognised as a disability, particularly in the workplace. Employers could discriminate against women by deeming them unable to carry out certain roles/duties. 

We recognise that it can be difficult for women with endometriosis to demonstrate that they meet the criteria in qualifying for such benefits. We are working to improve the knowledge and understanding of those carrying out assessments for disability benefits, in relation to endometriosis. We are also working to influence employers and Occupational Therapists, to increase their understanding of endometriosis and the impact it can have on womens' day to day lives. For example, a report was recently launched by the Work Foundation about the impact of women in the workplace with 'under-recognised chronic gynaecological health conditions' http://www.theworkfoundation.com/press_releases/55658/