In a historic victory that she called a “wake up call” for football clubs, a female footballer was awarded more than PS72,000 back-dated maternity pay.
After being denied her full salary, Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir (32-year-old Icelandic international) took Lyon, her former employer, to a FIFA tribunal. She was unpaid while she was away from work after the birth of Ragnar.
Gunnarsdottir has been ordered to pay the French club a total amount of EUR82,094.82 (around PS72,139) plus 5% annual interest starting 10 September 2013 and ending when the balance has been paid.
This is the first ruling of this kind since January 2021, when FIFA’s maternity regulations were in force.
The Juventus midfielder is currently playing in Italy and tweeted: “This not just business.”
“This is about my human right as a worker, a woman, or a human being.”
“This story is larger than me!” She added.
“It’s a wake up call for all clubs, and it’s an message to all players that if you get pregnant or wish to get pregnant during your career, you have your rights and guarantees!”
Gunnarsdottir requested to be returned to Iceland in the final stages her pregnancy.
After being denied full pay, she took action and sought help from the Union Nationale des Footballeurs Professionnels, a French player’s union.
Later, she enlisted FIFPRO as a global representative body to support professional football players around the world.
FIFPRO stated that the decision against Lyon, which was made public Tuesday, sends a clear signal that “strict application of maternity right is enforceable”.
In a statement posted on its social media channels, the organisation said: “FIFPRO felicitates Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir for her successful claim against Lyon regarding her failure to receive her full salary during her pregnancy.”
“We are proud to have helped her achieve the first ruling of its type since FIFA’s maternity regulations were in force in January 2021.
“It is vital for women footballers and women’s soccer that these mandatory maternity regulations be implemented at the national level.
Alex Culvin is a FIFPRO policy and strategy relations officer. He said that the landmark ruling “highlights ongoing battles women players must endure to protect their basic rights as workers.”
She said, “Progress has been achieved, but there is still so many to do.”
Gunarsdottir was also praised by fellow footballers, including Anita Asante, a former Lioness coach and English football coach.
She tweeted: “Well done Sara! You are bold and stand up for yourself while holding your club accountable!”
“You have not only identified a problem in football, but have hopefully helped to make the path for the next professional football player to start a family.”
Jen Beattie, the Arsenal and Scottish women’s stars, gave credit to her Icelandic counterpart for “speaking up on such an important topic” for women at work.
Desiree Scott (Canadian footballer, double Olympic gold medallist), praised Gunarsdottir’s sharing of her story to “inspire, affect change”, while adding that there was still work to do.
Lyon has yet to comment on this ruling.
FIFA rules, which were in force January 2021, stipulate that a female player has the right to maternity leave. This is defined as a minimum of 14 weeks of paid absence, with at least 8 weeks after the birth, during the contract term, and paid at the equivalent amount of two-thirds her salary.
Sky News exclusively reported that the former Attorney General Suella Brverman demanded a cultural change regarding maternity rights. He said too many employers were violating the law.
In March 2021, the home secretary was elected the first minister to take maternity leave.