Pregnancy policy under review – Sutherland

James Sutherland said pregnancy policies around Australia’s women cricketers will be addressed in MOU negotiations with ACA © ICC

James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has stated that pregnancy policies around the nation’s women cricketers will be addressed in the current round of MOU negotiations with the Australian Cricketers Association, though he asserted his comfort with a system that presently requires players to declare their maternal status when signing a contract.

Australia’s Sex Discrimination Act states that it is unlawful to ask a potential employee if they are pregnant, yet women signing to play in CA competitions are asked to state whether or not they are, in one of the clauses of their standard contracts. Both Sutherland and the team performance manager Pat Howard stated this was purely a health and safety measure.

However Sutherland, when pressed on the issue during an interview on ABC Radio, said that CA would work with the ACA to ensure the terms and conditions for female cricketers would be reviewed during the present round of talks to ensure the next agreement was in line with “best practice” for female athletes. It has been suggested – in keeping with the health and safety element – that women be permitted to declare whether they are pregnant or not to the relevant CA or state medical officer without the need for a clause in the contract itself, thus maintaining doctor-patient confidentiality.

“The critical thing here is that it’s a health and safety issue,” Sutherland said. “So it’s understood that a woman can declare herself pregnant, but the extension of that is we know they have taken medical advice, so if they continue to play then everyone’s aware and we can secure their safety.

“That doesn’t mean the woman cannot sign the contract. We need them to declare that they can continue to play, adhering to medical advice. All we’re saying is they need to say they are, so that everyone understands. They can take their own advice on continuing to play from a medical professional, but also so that our medical staff are aware so we can support them in that situation. That’s the intention – it’s not to stop a pregnant woman from playing.

“There are different stages of pregnancy, it’s a matter of disclosure and understanding and then working with the individual to make choices along the way and being offered that support. We haven’t had someone say they’re pregnant at the time of signing. We have had someone fall pregnant in their contract period, and they decided at a certain point that they wouldn’t continue to play, and we paid out their contract for the remainder of the period.”

Sutherland’s 15-year-old daughter, Annabel, is a contracted player with Melbourne Renegades, and he stated he was comfortable with her operating under these regulations. “Yes, because what is important here is health and safety,” he said, “and if she was carrying a baby, the health and safety of that baby.”

Quite apart from pregnancy policy, Australia’s female cricketers are presently not eligible for the sort of paid maternity leave mandatory even for CA’s own employees. Issues have also been raised around players relocating from their home states for the Women’s Big Bash League. Sutherland conceded that gender equity in cricket was still some way from being fully realised.

James Sutherland acknowledged that cricket was some way off achieving gender equity © Getty Images

“I think across the board from grassroots up, I don’t think gender equity is there in cricket,” he said. “That’s something that as an administration body, as administrators, we are determined to chase in the states and territories. We want there to be equal opportunity for girls to play our sport as there is for boys.

“But this is to some extent pioneering stuff. It’s not easy. There are challenges, because clubs and organisations are set up to play cricket on a certain amount of ovals. We’re needing to find places for girls to play and getting to find volunteers and resources around girls teams to allow them to have a great experience playing cricket. It’s not that easy, we’re determined to make sure it changes.

“We had great success with clubs and organisations, with the increased funding for girls to basically increase the number of girls’ teams playing across the country. A number of new organisations and competitions have started up this year. We’re thrilled with that response, but in some ways that’s affirmative action to change the landscape and create the opportunities that weren’t previously there.”

Negotiations with the ACA continue.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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