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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. 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.

The full article is available to read here. This article was written for and first published by LawInSport

Authored by: Jonathan Rennie and Nicky Beach

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at April 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

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