Original article from RNZ posted on 6:42 pm on 26 February 2022
Woman reaches settlement with employer over period pain sick leave
An allegation of gender discrimination against an employer who allegedly criticised their employee for taking one sick day due to menstruation-related illness has been settled.
The Auckland woman, who worked in an office environment, complained to the Human Rights Commission, saying her manager criticised her use of sick leave.
Senior solicitor Nicole Browne, who represented the woman via the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, said the settlement proved the legitimacy of paid sick leave for illness and pain caused by menstruation.
“Belittling the consequences of menstruation and the experiences of being a woman (or any other person who menstruates) erodes any progress towards an equality of opportunity for all genders,” she said.
“This was a great outcome for our client and we commend her bravery in standing up for her rights.
“We are also hopeful that awareness of this issue will better support a culture that promotes the capability, safety and inclusion of women in the workplace.”
More understanding needed from employers – Endometriosis NZ
While this dispute involved an employee suffering menstruation-related illness, many New Zealand women suffer an inflammatory disease that can take a huge toll on their working lives.
About one in ten women suffer from endometriosis, which is when uterine cells grow in other parts of the body. It can cause crippling pain, bowel problems and can fuse organs together.
Endometriosis NZ chief executive Tanya Cooke said those with the disease can average 11 working hours that are less productive or taken as time off due to pain each week.
“We continuously hear from many women (and those assigned female at birth) who are suffering from cyclical pain and find it extremely stressful to manage their work commitments at times during the month.”
Cooke said despite growing awareness of the condition, workers can still find it difficult to express their symptoms to their employers, who aren’t always sympathetic or understanding.
“It’s imperative that employers understand that conditions like endometriosis, PCOS, and menstrual pain can be debilitating for some and are absolutely valid reasons to take sick leave, and support their employees in doing so,” Cooke said.