England Women’s Rugby Players Will Now Be Granted 26 Weeks Paid Maternity Leave

A new policy from The Rugby Football Union and Rugby Players’ Association will see England’s women’s rugby players granted 26 weeks of maternity leave.

In what is being hailed as a landmark moment for women in sport, England women’s rugby players will now be granted 26 weeks of maternity leave on full pay. The announcement comes after an update to policy from The Rugby Football Union and the Rugby Players’ Association, and mounting calls from players and fans alike to see women granted greater pay across sporting codes. 

Under the new policy, players will also be supported to move into other employment in the rugby network, while those with a child under the age of 12 months will see their travel and accommodation costs paid for during competition, for both the child and a person to support. A similar provision will be made for players who would rather their child remain in their home environment. As well as this, discussions of contract extensions of a player who is pregnant or on maternity leave must involve the player in any discussions, with contract extensions being for a period of not less than 12 months. 

As Paula Grant, Rugby Football Union People Director, explained, the change to policy will serve as a greater incentive to keep women playing in the game they love. With paid maternity leave and support for those with young children, rugby is taking greater strides to becoming a safe and inclusive environment for players who are pregnant or have children. 

As Grant expressed, “We recognise that we need to develop opportunities and pathways for parents and players at all levels, and part of this requires an understanding of the challenges for players in the women’s game at professional level.” 

Grant added, “The current policy allows players to make choices as well providing financial certainty. We know the policy will evolve over time and understand each player’s individual circumstances are unique.” 

Already, the change has been a positive one with players quick to voice their support. Abbie Ward, who only recently announced that she is expecting her first child, said that such changes will ensure players feel supported throughout any life changes, while also normalising motherhood in sport. “There has been a great deal of work carried out by players, the RPA and the RFU to get to this point,” Ward said in a statement. 

“I am confident that the policy will help normalise motherhood in sport and give players the best possible chance of returning to play should they wish to do so in a secure and safe way.”

With such a policy coming into effect in England, it’s hoped that Australia will also follow suit with our own Wallaroos. Currently, the team is on a path towards professionalism, having signed a new deal that will see players receive central part-time contracts. According to Rugby Australia, a “parenting and pregnancy guideline” has been agreed to “in principle.” It’s hoped that the Wallaroos reach full professionalism in 2025, but currently players are having to navigate their passion of playing sport while also balancing paid work and study. 

Source @womenshealth.com.au: Read more at : womenalive.org

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