Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir wins landmark maternity pay ruling

Toby Cudworth
Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir won the Champions League with Lyon in 2022
Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir won the Champions League with Lyon in 2022 / Maja Hitij/GettyImages
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Iceland captain Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir has revealed details of a landmark ruling that saw Lyon ordered to pay over £72,000 in unpaid salaries while she was pregnant.

The 32-year-old confirmed she was expecting her first child in early 2021 and agreed with the French club that she would return to her homeland for the final few months of the pregnancy. But Lyon stopped paying her wages while she was in Iceland and refused to address the situation as they claimed they were following French law.

In May 2022, a FIFA ordered tribunal ordered Lyon to pay Gunnarsdottir the wages that she was owed, and the now Juventus midfielder has opened up on her ordeal in a piece for The Player's Tribune.

"I didn’t have time to think or be concerned about my salaries from the club. I didn’t have any reason to think anything would go wrong," Gunnarsdottir said in an excerpt.

"Until I didn’t get my first paycheck. All that was deposited was just a small percentage from social security.

Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir warming up for Lyon before the 2022 Champions League final
Gunnarsdottir warming up for Lyon before the 2022 Champions League final / Harriet Lander/Copa/GettyImages

She added: "I was entitled to my full salary during my pregnancy and until the start of my maternity leave, according to the mandatory regulations from FIFA. These are part of my rights, and this can’t be disputed - even by a club as big as Lyon."

FIFPRO supported Gunnarsdottir's claim and said in a statement: "FIFPRO congratulates Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir on her successful claim against Olympique Lyonnais 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.

"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."

Lyon said they had 'put everything in place to support' Gunnarsdottir, but were warned by FIFA that if they did not pay the unpaid wages within 45 days they would be subject to a transfer ban.

Gunnarsdottir concluded: "I’m very hopeful about the women’s game. There’s a lot to celebrate. The facilities? The investment? The level? The fans filling up the stadium? We’ve come so far. That’s undeniable.

"But the reality is, when it comes to the overall culture? There’s a lot more work to do.

"We deserve better."


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