Nike faces backlash over lack of maternity leave policy

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·Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
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Alysia Montaño has sparked a debate about maternity leave. [Photo: Getty]
Alysia Montaño has sparked a debate about maternity leave. [Photo: Getty]

Nike has been criticised for not providing a maternity leave arrangement for its sponsored female athletes.

An exposé, published in The New York Times, features a video starring Olympic runner Alysia Montaño, in which she mocks Nike’s “Dream Crazier” slogan.

“If you want to be an athlete and a mother, well that’s just crazy,” she says in a voiceover. “No, seriously, it’s not a good idea.”

She details how she had to tape her abs together and ship breast milk from China in order to enable her to compete in a race shortly after her daughter was born, which she participated in so she would not lose her Nike sponsorship.

READ MORE: Third of mums express milk in work toilet

In the written report, other female athletes formerly sponsored by Nike weigh in.

“Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” Phoebe Wright, a runner, who was sponsored by Nike for six years until 2016, told the publication.

Olympian Kara Goucher details how she started training again a week after she gave birth, after learning while pregnant that Nike would not pay her until she started racing again.

Should sponsored athletes get maternity pay?

For athletes like Montaño, Wright and Goucher, sponsorship is often their main source of income. However, it’s worth mentioning that, unlike an employer, sponsors have no legal requirement to pay athletes while they are not working.

The issue has caused significant debate on Twitter, with some arguing a brand like Nike – who advertise their products around female empowerment – should practice what they preach with regards to the female athletes they sponsor.

Sponsorship deals should include a provision for maternity pay, many are arguing in support of Montaño.

READ MORE: Nike ad features woman with hairy armpits

However, not everyone agrees.

One person pointed out that many freelance and contract workers outside of the sporting industry share the same position as Montaño when it comes to maternity pay.

Others have waded into the debate, identifying the very nature of sponsorship is based on performance – therefore the notion of maternity pay is incompatible with such a deal.

In the UK, women are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, as long as they are eligible due to having an employment contract and giving the correct notice.

For more details of maternity rights for UK employees, visit the government website.

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