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Emma Mukandi calls for improved support for new mothers in the WSL

Emma Mukandi

Mukandi gave birth in November 2021 before returning for Scotland in August 2022 and for Reading when the WSL season started in September.

The current FA maternity policy gives new mothers 14 weeks of full pay.

"If I was to have a kid now, I don't think I'd be able to return 14 weeks after giving birth," Mukandi, 30, said.

Mukandi told Off The Ball's COYGIG podcast: "The policy is you only get 14 weeks' full pay and then you've got to go back to your work.

"Bear in mind our body is our job, who even came up with that? Surely not someone who's played football and had a baby. Is that a man? It had to be a man. A man was definitely involved in that."

Mukandi said the new maternity policy - introduced before the start of this season and which all clubs in the top two divisions in women's football must adhere to – could mean new mothers at poorer clubs receive less support.

"If you've got loads of money at Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, you've got loads of great facilities, having a baby there is not an issue at all," she said.

"But the lower down the leagues you go and then money comes into it and facilities, then it's easier for clubs and CEOs to be like, 'No, this isn't happening'."

Mukandi said Reading, who play in the WSL, have not allowed her to bring her daughter Innes into the training ground on days when she is not able to organise childcare.

She said they informed her via a general email that children were not allowed on grounds of "club policy". She is working with the Professional Footballers' Association to find a solution.

Mukandi said: "Because it's probably never happened at a club like Reading, it's probably easier to be like, 'We just have this policy that there's no kids and that's the answer'.

"I was a wee bit more disappointed because they never even came and spoke to me. It was just this email that got put out - a general email - but which I felt was pretty directed at myself.

"If this is about me then why did we not have a conversation and let me explain why she's here and see if there was anything they could do to actually help rather than just shut the door on it?"

Mukandi also highlighted cultural pressures that still exist in the women’s professional game, stating she faked an injury when eight weeks pregnant and did not inform her club of the pregnancy until after the 12-week scan in case it "didn't go down well".

"That was pretty tough," she said. "I did then have to tell the coach because it was probably not right that I kept it for that long anyway.

"At the time there was nothing in the contracts to say if you were pregnant there was any support put in place."

Writing on Twitter on Friday, Mukandi said she had highlighted to Reading that "more specialised support should be offered" but she understood that as she had been the first player at the club to have taken maternity leave there were "many lessons to be learnt".

"I will keep speaking about the topic in hope to make improvements in the club and the WSL," she wrote.

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