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  • Jacqueline Lademann

Madam President Deb Gunn Shares Her Story

HACSU's President, Deb Gunn shared her story about why Reproductive Health and Wellbeing Leave should be a basic workplace right.

Ever since my mid-twenties I struggled with severe PMT symptoms. My symptoms could last from a couple of hours to 3-4 days. I suffered from migraine, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Every single month!

After a few years of monthly pain and distress a treatment was found that worked. During that whole time, I was continuing to go to work and doing my job to the best of my ability, providing care and support to my clients. But there was no care and support available for me when I needed it.

I’m now at the other end of my reproductive life and have had to cope with perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. I have had hot flushes that were so bad that I felt like I might pass out. I’ve had trouble sleeping, sometimes having no sleep at all in a night. Turning up to work the next day knowing you are responsible for other people and handing out medication to clients while sleep deprived has been scary sometimes. I have been lucky that I have worked with other staff who could double check me or take on that task if I really needed them to.

Working in disability has meant working in predominantly female workplaces., and yet there has been no support for workers dealing with these kinds of issues. My colleagues all have their own issues and their own struggles, most will help out where they can. Broadly however, the overarching attitude has been that we just have to ‘suck it up’. That needs to change.

Having access to something like HACSU’s Reproductive Health and Wellbeing Leave would have come in very handy over the years. Not just the additional 5 days leave, although that’s nice too, but the support and care that having a clause like that enables.

It gives workers the confidence and the ability to bring up the problem and ask for the things they need. It would have helped to get support for me and my health.

We can’t use our Personal Leave because it just isn’t enough. Mostly, we are not sick. Also, it isn’t always about having an entire day off, it could also be having a couple of hours to go to a dark room and recover. Even just the chance to go and “freshen up” and have a change of clothes during a shift would be a welcome relief.

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