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27th Jan 2022

Female footballers in England given maternity leave after landmark ruling

Daniel Brown

Players will be guaranteed maternity and long-term sickness cover

Professional female players in England will now benefit from maternity and long-term sickness cover following a landmark ruling to their contracts, as reported by the Guardian.

Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott held a debate in parliament on women’s experiences of playing football in England, with the change to contracts being agreed to by the Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association.

Footballers at the 24 clubs in the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship will be guaranteed maternity and long-term sickness cover for the first time in history. While details are yet to be to be revealed, they have just recently been finalised.

“I pay tribute to all those that have worked so hard to get to this point,” Elliott said.

In March 2020, the FA said that maternity provisions were not in its standard player contract and that maternity cover was at the discretion of the respective clubs.

FIFA announced in the same month that it would introduce a set of minimum rights for contracted players around the world, which included measures that would see clubs face fines and transfer bans if they discriminated against players during pregnancy.

However, those measures – a minimum 14 weeks of paid maternity leave with at least eight weeks after birth at two-thirds of a player’s salary – were criticised for not lasting long enough, as per the Guardian.

There have been calls for increased support for female players who choose to have children, with many players opting to wait until they retire to start a family.

For example, US International Alex Morgan’s daughter Charlie was born in May 2020, and the striker returned to action that November when she signed for Tottenham.

“We’ve seen how long it has taken Alex Morgan, one of the best players in the world that probably has the best people around her and the best access to staff [to come back from having a baby],” said former Watford striker Helen Ward at the time.

“For everyone else you’ve got to think it’s going to take similar if not more. It’s a tough subject and one that needs a lot of work.”

During a Westminster Hall debate convened by Elliott, female players’ experiences were discussed following the near collapse of Coventry United. Just before Christmas, players were informed that their contracts had been terminated and the club would be going into voluntary liquidation.

Taiwo Owatemi, the MP for Coventry North West, said: “Women playing professional football are often faced with short contracts, low pay and poor working conditions.

“It is important that we look into how to best ensure that what almost happened to my local women’s team in Coventry before Christmas does not become the norm.”

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