Ex-US coach Ellis hails new FIFA maternity rules

FIFA’s new pay regulations to support female players and coaches through pregnancy, adoption and maternity leave are a big step for women who have struggled to juggle children and career, former United States women’s coach Jill Ellis has said.

The regulations — which were approved unanimously by the FIFA Council earlier this month — include the minimum 14 weeks paid maternity leave for players being extended to coaches, while players and coaches adopting a child will be entitled to eight weeks paid absence when the adopted child is younger than two.

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A female player or coach who is not the biological mother will be granted a minimum of eight weeks family leave.

The new regulations will also allow women to receive full pay while absent from training or matches due to menstrual problems, plus encourage teams to allow female players more contact with family while on international duty.

“[A football career] shouldn’t be exclusive of being a mum or raising a child, it should be inclusive of that,” Ellis said.

“If I didn’t have support around me, I wouldn’t have had the ability to do that and maintain my career.

“These are big steps and big strides to really normalise the life that we go through as women … that’s what we want to provide now at every level, the club level, the national team level, the opportunity for pro players to have the chance to be mums.”

The former coach guided the USWNT to World Cup wins in 2015 and 2019, and led FIFA’s Technical Study Group at the 2023 tournament.

Under the new regulations, clubs can onboard players outside a registration period to temporarily replace female players who are absent for pregnancy, adoption or family leave, while players returning to football for any of those reasons can be registered outside a registration period.

Players will be entitled to receive full pay while absent due to severe menstruation.

“When you’re playing sport for a living, and in a professional environment, we have to factor in that the female menstrual cycle can also impact on your ability to deliver within your role,” FIFA’s Chief Football Women’s Officer Sarai Bareman said.

“So, it’s important that we protect those that are affected by their menstrual cycles in a way that it doesn’t put at risk their employment situation with their club and, ultimately, their ability to earn money.”

Member associations will also be encouraged to allow female players to have contact with their families while with their international teams, an important move for mothers, who can be away from their children for as long as six weeks while on World Cup duty.

“That can have a big toll on the player, mentally, but also on the child,” Bareman said. “So, encouraging the member associations to make provision or to allow for those mothers to have children with them during the camp, during the tournament, is a really important step which will support not only female players but all players in our sport.”

The new updates to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players will go into effect on Saturday.

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