Gunnarsdottir hails 'wake-up' call after winning maternity leave payout from Lyon

Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir in action during the UEFA Women's Euro 2022. Credit: PA

Iceland international Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir said her victory in fighting for back-dated pay during her maternity leave was "a wake-up call" for clubs.

The 32-year-old midfielder took former employer Lyon to a FIFA tribunal in a bid to recoup under-payment of her salary during the time she was away when her son Ragnar was born.

A ruling made public on Tuesday revealed that the French club has been ordered to pay her 82,094.82 euros – around £72,139 – plus 5% interest a year from September 10 last year until the debt has been cleared.

Responding in a post on her official Twitter account, Gunnarsdottir, now in Italy with Juventus, said: “This story is bigger than me!

"It’s a wake-up call for all clubs and it’s a message to all players that if they get pregnant or want to get pregnant during their career, they have their rights and guarantees!"

The issue of equal pay for women in football has come to the forefront in recent years as the sport becomes more popular.

FIFA, governments and major teams are all investing heavily in the sport but players are often played vastly lower sums than their male counterparts.

In a major development last year the national US Soccer team guarantees equal pay for men's and women's football after a long legal fight.

Gunnarsdottir asked to be allowed to return home to Iceland for the final stages of her pregnancy but enlisted the help of players' unions after receiving only a proportion of the wages she believed she was due.

FIFPRO, the global representative body for players, congratulated her on her landmark victory.

A statement issued via its official Twitter account said: "FIFPRO congratulates Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir on her successful claim against Lyon over the club’s failure to pay her full salary during pregnancy.

"We are pleased to have assisted her in achieving the first ruling of its kind since FIFA’s maternity regulations came into force in January 2021.

Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir during the UEFA Women's Champions League. Credit: PA

"It is extremely important for women footballers and the women’s game that these mandatory maternity regulations are both implemented and enforced at national level."

FIFA rules, which came into force in January 2021, state: "A female player is entitled to maternity leave, defined as a minimum period of 14 weeks’ paid absence – with at least eight weeks after birth – during the term of the contract, paid at the equivalent of two-thirds of her contracted salary."

Lyon said in a statement: "Olympique Lyonnais has always been a forerunner when it comes to women’s football and supporting athletes at every stage of their lives."

Lyon also said they were "proud to have counted Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir in the squad" and that "our paths separated for purely sporting reasons."

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