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January 9, 2018

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Report calls for taboos around women’s health to be shattered

A new report has called for an end to workplace taboos around women’s reproductive and gynaecological health conditions.

The report by the Work Foundation on women’s reproductive and gynaecological health and work warns under-recognised health conditions are holding-back women’s productivity and could be damaging their career and earning potential.

In particular, it calls for perceived taboos around women’s reproductive health to be “shattered”.

‘Under-recognised in workplace’

It highlights certain health conditions, such as endometriosis or infertility, and the experience of the menopause, which it says are still are under-recognised in the workplace.

Endometriosis, a chronic condition that affects one in ten women of reproductive age in the UK, is the second most common gynaecological condition.

It occurs when cells similar to those lining the uterus grow elsewhere in the body and can cause symptoms such as excessively painful periods, chronic pelvis pain and fatigue. There is no cure and symptoms get worse with age.

In addition, the symptoms can also lead to poor mental health.

Reduced work performance

The report builds upon a study conducted across 10 countries that found women with endometriosis experience reduced work performance, losing on average almost 11 hours of work each week.

The report argues women need to be empowered to get support through greater recognition of these conditions.

It also calls for more dialogue between employers, policy makers and health professionals, and for endometriosis to be included in the Equality Act as a chronic, debilitating disease.

Impact on gender pay gap

The Work Foundation’s lead on health, wellbeing and work, Karen Steadman, said: “Many of these conditions manifest in stress, poorer psychological health, fatigue and pain, all of which we know have considerable implications for work.

“The motherhood pay penalty, where mothers take time out of the labour market, is well known to sharply increase the gender pay gap from the age of 40,” added Ms Steadman.

“However, many women also experience reproductive health burdens that can also affect their ability to work and therefore possibly further exacerbate gender pay inequality.

“These conditions should not just be dismissed as ‘women’s issues’. As they affect so much of the UK’s working age population, they are important for the economy as a whole.”

Read the full report here

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