The UCI will introduce a new maternity clause to its contracts between self-employed riders and Women’s WorldTeams, which will be the top-tier of teams racing on the Women's WorldTour in 2020. The teams will also be required to pay a minimum salary to their riders, which is set to start at a lower-than-expected €15,000 in the first year but gradually increase to equal the men’s Professional Continental Teams in 2023.
The maternity leave clause, which is included in the self-employed standard contract, will allow for women to take three months leave while being entitled to 100 per cent of their salary, followed by an additional five months at 50 per cent of their salary.
"This is just the basic right of every woman," said Iris Slappendel, executive director of The Cyclists' Alliance, a riders’ union that provides athletes with contract and educational support, career advice, and legal and retirement assistance. She applauded the UCI for the steps it is taking to include a maternity clause into the Women’s WorldTour reforms.
"Times are changing. The situation of riders is improving and teams are becoming more professional. Riders now race until they are older and [maternity] often is part of a career. It’s important that if you have the wish to become a mother, it should not stop you from also being a professional athlete."
The UCI recently published amendments to its rules and regulations as from January 2019 (beginning in 2020) to include samples of two types of contracts: a ‘Standard contract between a rider and a UCI Women’s WorldTeam’ (an employee) and ‘Contract between self-employed rider and a UCI Women’s WorldTeam’.
The latter includes the maternity-related article 2.13.192 that states: "A rider temporarily prevented from exercising their activity as a cyclist, due to pregnancy, shall be entitled to 100 per cent of their salary for a period of 3 months and 50 per cent of their salary for another period of 5 months, and the amount to be paid may not be less than the minimum salary stipulated in Article 2.13.177.
"This entitlement shall cease at the end of the pregnancy or contract… The entitlement to the salary shall be assumed by the UCI Women’s WorldTeam, after having made deductions for social insurance benefits or loss of revenue to which the rider could be entitled for this situation.
"The pregnancy shall be duly established. The UCI Women’s WorldTeam may require that the rider undergoes an examination, either with a doctor designated by mutual agreement or with an occupational doctor recognised by the applicable social security scheme."
The maternity clause is in line with the stricter contract regulations that the UCI is expected to enforce in two years. The regulations are meant to improve the working conditions for women in cycling.
All athletes' contracts will be examined by a financial audit and consultancy firm, which is in line with the model that already exists for the men's professional peloton.
The need for creating contracts that better protect the athletes is not new. The Cyclists Alliance formed a "new and improved" standard contract last year, which includes clauses for insurance demands, maternity leave, pension plans, work-related expenses, minimum and maximum race days and clear prize money regulations, some of which the UCI adopted in its Women’s WorldTeam standard contract.
"We added a maternity leave entitlement to our own contracts because we were seeing a lot of contracts that said ‘if you are pregnant, your contract is terminated immediately'," said Slappendel, who also represented the female riders on the UCI Athletes Commission and frequently consults with the UCI regarding contracts as part of the Women's WorldTour Committee. She also provides ideas, input and feedback to the total regulations, such as minimum salary or race calendars. She serves on the committee as a rider-representative.
"There are teams now that still put it in their contracts. It’s against European law, so even if it’s in a contract, it has no real value, except that it gives a team owner a very bad image. Unfortunately, most riders don’t realise that that shouldn’t be in a contract.
"In the Women’s WorldTour Committee, I advocated for maternity leave and insurance surrounding maternity. It’s been a big topic of discussion because there are people who find it difficult to understand, who feel that an athlete should not become pregnant because it is a cost to the team. I’m happy that it is now in the new Women’s WorldTeam contracts, and in the insurance demands."
In addition to the maternity clause, stand-out elements of the self-employed contracts include higher standards for insurance. In 2020 and 2021, women will be entitled to health and maternity insurances, and by 2022, a pension plan will be included.
The UCI’s amendments states that Women’s WorldTeams shall ensure their compliance with the applicable social security legislation in their capacity as an employer, so that the rider will be entitled to the benefits granted by law to full-time workers; or take out and assume the costs of the following kinds of insurance: Health, Maternity and Pension.
Minimum salary starts at €15,000 (employed) and €24,000 (self-employed). Self-employed riders have a higher minimum salary as they must pay their own tax and social security.
At the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, the UCI announced that the two-tiers of teams would be called Women's WorldTeams and Continental Teams, and that the goal was to have five teams make up the WorldTeams in 2020, 10 teams in 2021 and 15 teams in 2022.
Lappartient said that he was afraid when he learned that women were earning less than €10,000 and that roughly 50 per cent were forced to pay for some portion of their work-related travel expenses. This information came out following a survey to 450 riders conducted by The Cyclists' Alliance.
The minimum salary introduction is one of the ways the UCI is attempting to improve women's cycling, but it will be introduced gradually, starting at €15,000 with a goal of equalling the men’s Professional Continental team in 2023, currently set at just above €30,000.
The salary range covered in the UCI's amendments to its rules and regulations largely depend on whether a rider is contracted as an employee or is self-employed.
Article 2.13.177 outlines the minimum salary amounts over a three-year span: €15,000 (employed)/€24,600 (self-employed) in 2020. Although it is much lower than the previously discussed numbers, Slappendel insisted that it was a realistic starting point.
The amounts will increase over the next two years to €20,000 (employed)/€32,000 (self-employed) in 2021 and €27,500 (employed)/€45,100 (self-employed) in 2022.
"It’s great that there is a plan and something to aim for," Slappendel said. "You have to set the bar somewhere, and if you set it super low, then it makes no sense to create a WorldTour. I think it’s a good step."
Women’s WorldTeams secure four-year licences
The UCI is aiming to welcome five teams to the new Women’s WorldTeam category in 2020. The goal is to gain five new teams each year after until 15 teams form the top-tier in 2022.
The duration of each team licence will vary from two to four years. Teams that are part of the Women’s WorldTeams in 2020 will keep their licences for four years until 2023. Teams applying for the 2021 season will have a three-year licence, and teams applying in 2022 will have a two-year licence.
In the 2024 season, licenses will be issued based on the accumulation of points; in the final under-23 and elite UCI world rankings by the team of the previous year, and in the under-23 and elite UCI world ranking by team calculated on October 1 in the current season.
Teams ranked 1 to 5 will gain a four-year licence, while teams ranked 6 to 10 will have a three-year licence, and teams ranked 11 to 15 will have a two-year licence. Continental teams applying to be part of the Women’s WorldTeams will gain two-year terms.
The size of Women’s WorldTeams will vary, but the UCI has set a minimum and a maximum number of riders at no fewer than nine and no more than 16 in 2020 and 2021. That will increase to a minimum of 10 and maximum of 20 riders per team in 2022 and onward.