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FIFPRO's perspective on new FIFA women's football labour conditions regulations


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On 1 June 2024, FIFA incorporated new regulations about working conditions for professional women footballers with an emphasis on maternity rights.

The rules relating to players include a minimum of two, four or eight weeks’ leave for adoption and at least eight weeks for the partners of mothers in same-sex relationships. In other developments, players have the right to take time off for health issues related to menstruation and there is a new clause that encourages a family-friendly environment at federation level for players with children.

The regulations, which are now part of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP), were negotiated on behalf of players by FIFPRO lawyers Roy Vermeer, Loïc Alves and Alexandra Gómez Bruinewoud, who here explains how they came about.

FIFPRO: Is this the second round of FIFA rules related to motherhood?

Alexandra Gómez Bruinewoud: Yes. When FIFPRO began to draft a parental policy in professional football in 2019, the only women-specific clause in the FIFA RSTP was the exclusion of women’s football from training compensation. When FIFPRO presented its policy in 2020, there was good collaboration with FIFA and by the end of that year, we had negotiated an initial set of maternity rules that came into force on 1 January 2021: these give women players the right to 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, among other benefits.

Melanie Serrano
Melanie Serrano

How have those first maternity rules changed the careers of players?

They have become a baseline for player rights and helped mothers around the world. They help players to stay in the game, and not be pushed to choose between motherhood and their job as football players. A landmark decision by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber in the case of Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir against Olympique Lyonnais received worldwide attention. In Sweden there is direct reference to FIFA maternity rules in a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between players and clubs. In France, Australia and England, the same rights were and are used as the basis for CBA negotiations.

In Germany, goalkeeper Almuth Schult became the first player in her country to register for a new club outside the normal transfer windows following childbirth; this was under a FIFA provision that came into force in 2021. Almuth was able to join Hamburger SV in April.

Almuth Schult Postpartum 5
Almuth Schult

That’s the good news. The bad news is that most of FIFA’s 211 member associations have still not implemented these mandatory maternity rules at national level. This is despite four official letters sent to member associations by FIFA asking them to do so. This is, of course, concerning and it means that many players who play in their own domestic leagues do not have the same protection as their peers in other parts of the world.

What is FIFPRO’s view on the new rules that came into effect on 1 June 2024?

The first maternity rules were for us only the first step and we always wanted more. Many of the additional rules that were adopted on 1 June are what we have been fighting for on behalf of players for the past few years; in fact, since before the first set of maternity rules. They are a very positive step, and we warmly welcome them, but we regret that there are still some deficiencies.

Are there more rules you are still advocating for?

Yes. We want players whose contract expires during pregnancy or maternity leave to be able to automatically extend their contract at least to the next transfer window. This right of extension already exists, for example, in Argentina and Spain, where the extension is for a full year. The average contract in women’s football is one year, and so it is important players can effectively make use of their rights.

Separately, we want fathers also to benefit from family leave and adoption leave. If you give eight weeks to a woman partner in a relationship, there is no reason why you cannot give it to a man partner – the regulations are currently discriminatory. It is bizarre that a woman partner has the right to spend time with a child, but a man does not. We should not overlook the right of the child to be with both parents.

Bernardo Silva Baby
Bernardo Silva

What are your thoughts about menstrual health leave?

It raises awareness about menstruation as part of women’s life, and the potential health effects. A player can go to a doctor and ask for sick leave because of period pains. This was already possible, but the new rules reinforce this and provide legal certainty: it is clearly stated that a player’s salary must be fully paid for the days she is off.

How about the new clause encouraging a ‘family friendly’ environment?

A family friendly environment is of course important for new mothers, both at club and national team level. When FIFPRO visited players at the Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup this year, almost all the national teams had at least one mother in the squad but none of them had their children there.

One of the players had a one-year-old boy she had not seen for more than 20 days; she said it was horrible. She did not know whether to make a video call to him, in case it made it worse. She had asked to bring the boy, offering to pay for the costs, but the federation was indecisive, so she did not receive confirmation that she would be allowed to see him.

We think clubs and national federations should pay for the cost of a childminder to accompany a player who is a new mother when she is on team duty abroad. In USA, this kind of approach is considered normal and is included in the CBA of both the national team and the NWSL; it was also authorised recently for Iceland’s national team. For now, the new FIFA rule does not oblige but only encourages features such as a creche or nappy changing facilities; these are things we want to see normalised.

Alexandra Gomez
Alexandra Gómez Bruinewoud

What else can FIFPRO do for new mothers in football?

There is much more to be done to make new mothers comfortable in football. Often players say they were confused about what to do around pregnancy and after childbirth. Clubs might have experts in recovery from ACL injuries but not how to strengthen muscles after pregnancy. Many players have had to turn to Google for advice.

We are working on guidelines that give advice on everything from regulatory issues to strength conditioning and from sleep to nutrition and pelvic floor exercises. We want to bring everything together for players in a practical manner. We are planning to publish the full guidelines in the coming weeks.