Sarah Bjork-Johnarsdottir praises the maternity pay ruling as an achievement for future mothers

Sarah Bjork-Johnarsdottir has hailed her landmark maternity pay ruling as an achievement for ‘all women who will follow’, having received more than £72,000 in unpaid salaries from Lyon that were owed to her while pregnant.

Gunnarsdottir announced that she was expecting her first child in April 2021, and gave birth in November.

The Icelandic international has agreed with Lyon that she will return to her home country for the duration of her pregnancy, before returning to the French club after giving birth. However, Leon stopped paying her while she was in Iceland, claiming that they were following French law.

In May 2022, Gunnarsdottir He won a lawsuit against Lyon Through the FIFA Maternity Regulations. This entitles her to full pay throughout her pregnancy and until maternity leave begins. The regulations were introduced in January 2021, but Gunnarsdottir is the first player to win such a claim.

“I am proud of what I have achieved, not only for myself, but for all the women who will follow; all the players who are about to become mothers, who will not have to worry about their careers because they can use my example to ensure fair treatment,” Gunnarsdottir told FIFAPRO. – who played an instrumental role in introducing the regulations.

“Even after my son was born, I felt hard because I wasn’t ready to leave a three-month-old baby overnight. My son’s presence brought so much joy to my teammates.”

Gunnarsdottir’s decision to share her story comes a week after Emma Mukendi spoke about her experiences on maternity leave and being a new soccer mum. This included initially pretending to have an injury because there were no maternity clauses in her contract, not being allowed to deliver her baby on site due to reading club policy, and having to pump breasts in a closet.

Mukandi was given eight months of full salary by Reading before returning to action in pre-season ahead of the 2022/23 campaign. The FA’s current maternity policy – agreed in January 2022 – gives new mums 14 weeks of full pay before returning to the statutory rate.

“In addition to winning the case, I am proud to be part of the conversation about motherhood in soccer,” Gunnarsdottir added. “It’s not just Leon who has to do better — but everyone. There has to be more preparation; it shouldn’t come as a shock when a young woman gets pregnant and wants to continue her career after the baby is born.”

“It’s not just about financial support. As a sport, we need to understand that pregnancy is not an injury – it’s an important part of life for a lot of people and clubs need to have a system in place to accommodate that.

The club must fully follow and support the player, not abandon him just so he can play again. If someone at Olympique Lyonnais had just reached out to me, giving me tips on how to train safely, and asking me how I felt, that would have made a world of difference.”

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