RFU and RPA Announce ground-breaking new maternity policy for England Women

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) and the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) are pleased to announce a ground breaking new maternity, pregnant parent and adoption leave policy for contracted England Women’s players. 

The policy will work towards providing a supportive environment for contracted players after having children as well as establishing policies to support the player during pregnancy.

The RFU will support the right of the player who wishes to continue to be involved in the team, while ensuring that the safety of the player and the unborn child are considered first. A full risk assessment will be undertaken when a player first advises of pregnancy which will be a significant factor in determining what duties can be safely performed during pregnancy.

The policy also provides opportunities for players due to go on maternity leave (26 weeks on full pay), to move into other safe employment within the rugby network, e.g., community coach, until the player goes on maternity leave.

If at any point during pregnancy or whilst on maternity leave, contracts are renegotiated or extended, the player who is pregnant or on maternity leave will be included in all discussions and have their contract extended for a period of not less than 12 months.

Any player returning to the squad following maternity leave who has been selected to participate in the programme within 12 months of giving birth (or the main caregiver following adoption), and required to travel for training camps, may travel with their infant, provided that a support person travels to assist in the care and supervision of the infant. 

Where that infant is less than 12 months old, the player will be supported by the RFU to have their infant and support person travel with them for competitions with all travel and accommodation costs met by the RFU. While this will ordinarily be the period immediately before and after a match this will be extended for any overseas travel in consultation with the wishes of the player. There will be a similar provision made for any player who would prefer for their infant to remain in the home environment.

RFU People Director Paula Grant said: “We’re really pleased to be able to implement this policy. The RFU are committed to providing a safe and inclusive rugby environment for all players, including those players who are pregnant or have children. 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. 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.”

RPA General Secretary Christian Day said: “We are delighted to have been able to work with the RFU in such a positive way for our members, with today’s announcement signifying another significant step forward for the women's game in England. Player welfare and wellbeing will always be something that the RPA will strive to advance and this new policy ensures that our women’s players will be better supported through parenthood when representing England. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect has been the way that it is the players themselves who have been engaged with and included in discussions to help shape and develop its formulation. With this policy now in place, not only will it provide safety and security for the players, but it also makes becoming a parent more normal and less taboo, which is exactly as it should be.”

Red Roses lock Abbie Ward, who recently announced she is expecting her first child added: “There has been a great deal of work carried out by players, the RPA and the RFU to get to this point. 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.”