The Federation’s wellbeing lead says the Force becoming an official Endometriosis Friendly Organisation is a ‘positive move’ and one that he hopes gives female officers living with the condition the ‘confidence they need to open up in the workplace’.
Dai Gaskins says news that Dyfed Powys has become an ‘Endo-Friendly Organisation’ proves the Force is evolving.
The Endometriosis Friendly Employer scheme allows organisations to demonstrate their commitment to developing a working environment and culture that enables employees with endometriosis to thrive at work.
“We’ve come a long way over the last few years and I feel like the barriers are being broken down. When I was a shift sergeant many years ago, I was definitely aware of women who lived with gynaecological issues but nobody really seemed to understand them, especially endometriosis,” said Dai.
“Rewind to when women were turning up for work wearing trousers with an elastic waistband for comfort but then being challenged. They would then have to defend themselves.
“I remember some female colleagues sitting on bin bags, to avoid marking the seat and others needing to run into 24/7 supermarkets for painkillers during their shifts because they were in so much pain.”
Endometriosis is a serious and chronic disease, caused by the lining of the womb growing in other places. It can result in severe and life-impacting pain, as well as bloating, nausea, fatigue, depression, anxiety and infertility.
When an organisation signs up to be an Endometriosis Friendly Employer, they will be given a certificate to display showing their commitment, be put on the list of signatories on the official website and receive a copy full of useful information to refer to.
Dai continued: “I think things started to change around 10 years ago when line managers began to understand that some officers did need that additional support.
“Over time, through awareness raising and challenging the norm, changes are starting to be seen - and becoming an ‘Endo-Friendly Organisation’ is proof of this.”
One of the main changes becoming an Endometriosis Friendly Employer brings is providing sufferers with a ‘wellbeing passport’, which they can show if they experience a flare-up.
Cassie Lewis, a Force intelligence support officer, who was diagnosed at the age of 25 with endometriosis seven years ago, says the Force becoming an Endometriosis Friendly Employer is ‘amazing’.
“I was beaming with pride when I found out,” said 31-year-old Cassie.
“I’m so proud of how far the Force has come. Endometriosis does not define my ability to work. Having this status, and being able to use a ‘wellbeing passport’ means I can adapt my duties or environment, so I can continue working, but more comfortably.
“It might seem like a small change for most people but, for those who are suffering, it will make such a big difference.
“Endometriosis does not define who I am and it certainly doesn’t define my ability to work.”
Cassie is part of the Force’s endometriosis working group, which aims to educate colleagues and raise awareness of the condition.
“Talking is so powerful. It makes such a difference to talk to others and not hide away from the condition. And I genuinely believe that by opening up more, we’re changing attitudes,” she says.
In March, as part of Endometriosis Awareness Month, Dyfed Powys Police held a networking event, which was led by a specialist nurse and gave officers and staff suffering from the condition the opportunity to meet up and share their experiences.
“If you had told me when I was diagnosed that I’d be sitting here, five years later, with a specialist endometriosis nurse talking so openly about the condition, I wouldn’t have believed you,” added Cassie.
“We actually had a number of line managers turn up to the event, just because they wanted to know more, so they could better support their team. It really is amazing to see how far we have come.”
The Force also has ‘Endometriosis Champions’ who are not medical professionals, but can chat to those who need it.
“It’s a bit like a buddy scheme,” Cassie explained.
“They are there to offer little snippets of advice or signpost people - whether they are living with endometriosis themselves, or know somebody who is - to places of information.
“I’m so passionate about all of this because I feel like I didn’t have any of this guidance or advice when I was diagnosed.”
There is more information on endometriosis and the support available on the Force's intranet.