Soccer star Sarah Bjork-Johnarsdottir wins high-profile maternity leave case

the main points
  • Sarah Bjork-Johnarsdottir, who became pregnant in early 2021, waited nearly two years to make the decision.
  • The players’ association FIFPRO helped her obtain the decision, the first of its kind.
  • FIFA’s maternity regulations come into force in January 2021.
Icelandic players’ association Sara Björk Gunnarsdottir said on Tuesday it had won the case against former club Olympique Lyonnais after she did not receive her full salary during her pregnancy.
The 32-year-old turned to FIFPRO to take her complaint to FIFA and world football’s governing body ruled in August last year that the club must pay the full amount owed to Bjork within 45 days of notification of the decision.

FIFA said the club would face a transfer ban if it failed to pay in full.

In a statement, Fifpro described the ruling as the first of its kind since FIFA’s maternity regulations came into force in January 2021.
Gunnarsdottir, who became pregnant in early 2021, wrote on The Players’ Tribune website.

The midfielder added, “This is not ‘just work’. This is about my rights as a worker, as a woman and as a human being.”

Björk, a two-time Champions League winning midfielder, signed for Juventus following her departure from Lyon after playing in Euro 2022 with Iceland.
“They did not expect something like this, especially from a club as big as Lyon,” Alexandra Gomez-Bruynaud, a legal advisor at FIFPRO, who worked on the case and was actively involved in defining FIFA’s maternity regulations, told Reuters.
“We did not anticipate such a case when we pushed for these regulations, but we knew there would come a time when these protections would be used…

“The importance is that now players will not have to choose between playing and being a mother, they will be able to combine that, and it will not be easy of course, but at least they have the legal basis where they have some protection.”

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