Mental Health nurse, long-term HACSU member and former Assistant State Secretary Denise Guppy has experienced reproductive health issues at both ends of her life cycle. Most notably, she went through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment 25 years ago while in a management role. Even though her own manager was accepting of her situation, the practicalities around it were a bit confusing.
“The impact of getting a medical certificate to access sick leave because I was having an egg pick-up or transfer did something to how I felt about what I was going through. I actually wasn’t sick,” Guppy said. “It’s (reproductive health) not an illness, but it requires some support and flexibility from the employer. That flexibility is so important to encourage women’s participation in the workforce.”
Guppy believes HACSU’s Reproductive Health and Wellbeing Leave campaign is a “fantastic innovation”. While she was going through her own reproductive health issues, she didn’t always feel comfortable telling her managers exactly what was happening because she “didn’t want to make them cringe”. That shame and taboo still exists to this day, and Guppy, like HACSU, is intent on changing that.
However, standing in our way is the Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association (VHIA), who represent the Victorian Mental Health Services and whom we are currently bargaining with to make Reproductive Health and Wellbeing Leave a reality. Right now, the VHIA is arguing that workers with reproductive health and wellbeing issues can simply use their normal sick leave for those matters. HACSU is hoping that we can continue to negotiate and educate the VHIA on why this leave is so important. To Guppy, the current position of the VHIA is an outdated view.
“You’ve got sisters, mothers, grandmothers, nieces and daughters,” she said. “It’s all around you. Have you never filled a hot water bottle? Have you never put a woman to bed and got her a cup of tea because she just can’t function on that day? They (VHIA) must know someone who needs that time (Reproductive Health and Wellbeing Leave). These people are making decisions about the women in their lives who menstruate every month. I just think, in 2020, it’s absolute blindness. Fifty per cent of the population bleed every month.”