Win-win: a progressive approach to maternity & paternity rights for professional athletes
Many employers consider family-friendly benefits, such as paid parental leave or child-care, to be a cornerstone of recruitment and retention. For example, Diageo (the UK beverage company) recently introduced a new global policy offering female employees a minimum of 26 weeks of fully paid maternity leave. By contrast, sporting bodies are, in the authors’ experience, generally lagging behind in creating robust family-friendly policies, leaving them out of step with modern attitudes towards athletes’ rights, and potentially exposing them to legal risks for failing to meet even minimum statutory requirements.
Drawing on examples from around the world, this article examines current approaches towards maternity and paternity rights for athletes. It concludes that, on the whole, far more needs to be done to not only meet basic expectations, but also plan for the specific difficulties pregnancy and child-care can present for an athlete’s career.
Specifically, it looks at:
- Greater support for maternity leave/pay;
- Rethinking attitudes towards sponsorship/benefits;
- Assistance on return to work;
- Paternity rights;
- Tips for negotiating a progressive maternity/paternity policy.
Please note that this article does not explore the issue of employment status of athletes and the distinction between the benefits afforded to workers, employees and funded athletes. For an in depth discussion of this issue, please see this LawInSport article. While minimum standards required under law vary by categorisation (and jurisdiction), the focus here is rather on identifying the issues that athletes are facing and discussing how they can be dealt with in a fitting manner.
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- Tags: Athlete Welfare | Athletics | Australia | Baseball | Employment | Employment Rights Act 1996 | Equality | Football | Football Federation Australia | Olympics | Professional Footballers Australia | Sponsorship | Tennis | The FA | Tokyo 2021 | United Kingdom (UK) | US Womens National Soccer Team | USA | U_S Tennis Association | Womens National Basketball Association (WNBA) | Womens Tennis Association (WTA)
- The employment status and rights of funded athletes in the UK
- The Jess Varnish decision - why British athletes are still not considered “employees” and what it means for athletes and NGBs
- Sport and employment law – the year in review 2018/19
- Gender equality in football - how we negotiated equal rights for the Matildas & Socceroos
About the Author
He has a keen interest in sport and has instructed and competed in various martial arts. Nicky trained for years in Krav Maga hand to hand combat, under the International Krav Maga Federation (IKMF) and Krav Maga Maor, as well as under instructors trained in unarmed combat in the U.K. armed forces and Israeli Defence Forces. He is a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, having also medalled in the sport, has fought in a Mixed Martial Arts fight and has competed in Freestyle Wrestling. The latter he became involved in after successfully gaining a place on SportScotland’s Gold4Glasgow athlete’s programme. He is also a former Policy Director of the Scottish Wrestling Association (SWA).