FA announces improved female pro contracts including enhanced maternity policy

Birmingham City v Everton – FA Women’s Super League – SportNation.bet Stadium
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

Improved contracts for professional female players – including an enhanced maternity policy – will come into effect from next season, the Football Association has announced.

It was revealed last week that an agreement had been reached between the FA and the Professional Footballers’ Association to make the improvements, and on Tuesday the FA set out detail of the new maternity package.

The governing body said that players in the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship going on maternity leave from the 2022-23 campaign will be entitled to 14 weeks at 100 per cent of their regular salary and any additional remuneration, before reverting to the applicable statutory rate.

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Previously any enhancements had been at a club’s discretion, with the standard minimum being statutory maternity pay. Even then, a player had to have been with a club for a minimum of 26 weeks to qualify.

Under the new policy, there is no minimum qualifying period.

The FA said the policy would form part of a club’s licensing criteria, and must be offered to players to ensure those criteria are met.

The contracts will also improve injury and illness cover and the terms around termination of contract due to a long-term injury, bringing them in line with the standard contracts for male players.

The FA’s director of the women’s professional game, Kelly Simmons, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to put this agreement in place and it is another significant step forward for the women’s game.

“Player welfare and well-being has always been our number one priority and this new policy ensures players are better supported, whether that’s going on maternity leave or as a result of a long-term injury.

The PFA's director of women's football, Marie-Christine Bouchier, is working to bring parity to professional female players' contracts with their male counterparts

The PFA’s director of women’s football, Marie-Christine Bouchier, is working to bring parity to professional female players’ contracts with their male counterparts (Handout /PFA)

“This objective was written into our Women’s Pro Game Strategy that we released last year, so I am pleased we have been able to achieve this.”

The PFA and the FA are still discussing further steps to achieve contract parity between male and female players, including around a club’s option to extend a contract.

“The current notification period in the standard WSL contract could leave some players in limbo when their deal ends,” the PFA’s director of women’s football Marie-Christine Bouchier said.

“Players can find themselves in a situation where their contract has expired, but their club can wait a further week to decide whether they activate the option or release the player.”

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In the men’s game clubs must notify players that they intend to exercise the extension option by the third Saturday in May or four days after their last game of the season, with contracts running until June 30.

Bouchier added: “We are confident this will be remedied imminently, but again, it’s just a basic issue of fairness.”

The PFA is also working to establish a Women’s Professional Football Negotiating and Consultative Committee, equivalent to the men’s PFNCC which contains members from the PFA, FA, Premier League and English Football League.

Such a committee would help, the PFA says, with finding a solution for funding female player pension contributions, and ensure any changes to conditions cannot be made without PFA agreement.

In the men’s game, the existence of the PFNCC helped protect players over issues such as salary caps and squad size limits.

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The PFA would also like players in the Women’s Championship to be eligible for union membership in the future, although it says there are a number of complexities that need to be addressed.

Its chief executive Maheta Molango said: “Collectively, we want to reach a position of professionalisation in the Women’s Championship, create a collaborative and innovative WPFNCC to drive progression in all areas of the women’s game, and achieve absolute parity in working conditions and protections between male and female players in English football.”

The FA’s announcement on Tuesday came a few hours after the United States’ National Women’s Soccer League said it and the NWSL Players Association had agreed the competition’s first collective bargaining agreement, covering the next five seasons.

The agreement includes the player minimum salary being increased to 35,000 US dollars (£25,900) a year, and guarantees in terms of parental and mental health leave.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes feels the drive for equality across the global game must continue (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes welcomed the announcement as a “positive step”, but feels there is still more work ahead to level the playing field.

“This was long overdue and I think the drive from FIFPRO (the worldwide representative organisation for professional footballers) all the way down through the system was really, really needed in the women’s game,” Hayes said.

“It is just another step in the right direction. We’ve got so much catching up to do in our game, whether that be about the opportunity, whether that be about provision behind the scenes.

“This for me is one that I think is needed across the global game, not just in England.

“I think that FIFPRO are trying to put in place basic standards, basic minimums across the globe that I think is absolutely needed to protect the rights of women in football.”

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