A new report finds women are losing their jobs at a high rate due to endometriosis. 

Researchers have surveyed hundreds of people with a confirmed diagnosis of endometriosis, finding that with 1 in 3 (31 per cent) reported being passed over for promotion due to having to manage their endometriosis symptoms, and 1 in 6 (15 per cent) report being fired due to having to manage their endometriosis symptoms.

Endometriosis is a common disease in which the tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows outside it in other parts of the body. 

More than 11 per cent of Australian women, girls, and those who identify as gender diverse suffer with endometriosis at some point in their life, with the disease often starting in teenagers. 

Common symptoms include pelvic pain that puts life on hold around or during a woman’s period. It can also damage fertility.

Endometriosis is reported to cost Australian society $9.7 billion annually, with two-thirds of these costs attributed to a loss in productivity, with the remainder, approximately $2.5 billion being direct healthcare costs. Comparatively, diabetes costs about $1 billion annually in direct healthcare costs.

“Whilst COVID-induced workplace changes were challenging, for women with endometriosis they were also beneficial,” says Dr Mike Armour, lead author of the study. 

“Seventy-nine per cent of women with endometriosis [reported] that COVID workplace changes had made management of their endometriosis symptoms easier. 

“As a result of easier endometriosis management, flexible working arrangements also made women with endometriosis more productive, with more than half of women with endometriosis indicating that they were more productive as a result of COVID workplace changes.”

Women identified workplace flexibility in relation to time management and working from home as the most important factor that could improve management of endometriosis in the workplace. 

“The message is loud and clear, those with endometriosis are disadvantaged in a workplace that does not foster and support flexible working arrangements,” says Endometriosis Australia’s CEO Alexis Wolfe. 

“It’s evident workplaces need to create safe, confidential, and supportive environments for employees to share their experiences and find a balance that works for both parties.”

Federal health minister Greg Hunt says the study highlights the barriers that people face in trying to balance work commitments and their endometriosis.

“That fact that an overwhelming majority of women with endometriosis have benefited from the shift to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic is an important insight. I hope that more Australian employers will use this research to help support their employees who may be suffering from this terrible condition and to help them reach their full potential in the workplace,” Mr Hunt said.