We can’t speak for everyone, but since the lockdown started, many of us have turned to online workout classes and groups, and a lot of those dusty running trainers have been pulled out of the back of the closet, but whilst this surge in fitness focus is having a positive impact on us and our health, what about the professionals who rely on an income coming from telling us how many more burpees to do, how are they impacted?
Take Joe Wicks for example, his business model of exercise plans and TV appearances has had to adapt overnight, and he has now turned into our very own in-house P.E teacher for our kids – whilst his financial gain is stunted, his willingness to help out and contribute to society during this challenging time will fare him well in the future.
Unfortunately not all personal trainers and fitness instructors have access to the same resources, and whilst we can see many of them offering online classes via Zoom or Facebook and Instagram live feeds, they will still be struggling to pay their rent and bills. The support from the government for self-employed individuals has been a bit confusing to say the least, and whilst some trainers will be under employment contracts with their leisure centres, many instructors will fall into the self employed category. So how are they or their employers ensuring their financial security?
We spoke to several instructors, with varying responses as to whether their invoices for work completed pre-lockdown had been paid, delayed, or not acknowledged at all, and more worryingly, communication has also been hit or miss across the industry. We have seen large variances in business responses to this crisis, and whilst we can entirely understand that this unprecedented time has caused many challenges and hardships for businesses of all sizes, I personally believe we need to try and maintain some consistency in how we behave during this time across all industries.
Some companies like Places for Leisure have done their utmost to fully support all of their staff, employed and self-employed, with daily emails, support groups, online quiz nights, exercise classes, and they have consistently been transparent about the business concerns and how they will continue to pay and support everyone as long as they can.
Unfortunately this has not been the industry standard, with some companies withholding suppliers and contractors payments, take the Reynolds Group in Kent, despite informing instructors prior to the lockdown that they would be paid for works carried out, they have chosen to delay payment, and decided not to engage with self-employed staff and contractors to inform them of this, forcing them to chase for payment and then be informed of this delay in payments.
We have spoken with one self-employed individual who works for the group who was most concerned at the comments made by the groups representative, when they chased several times for an answer as to when their previous invoice would be paid, they were told that payments had been put on hold for all suppliers and contractors, and then went on to comment that ‘all small business and self-employed roles present a risk and there is always more security with contracted employment‘, they then extended the conversation of becoming employed with them once the lockdown is lifted. The group could not at that time provide any information as to how they would be working with, or paying their suppliers and self-employed individuals, and we were told they became defensive when their lack of communication was brought into question.
We now have confirmation that a payment date has been issued for early May, but we can’t help but think that if the group had decided to be more proactive with their communication with their teams, perhaps this whole situation could have been avoided and a better brand reputation could have been upheld. I reached out the groups representative to provide comment to us, but we have yet to receive a response from them.
The fitness industry is there for health and wellbeing, but not all employers are doing the same for their staff. The industry moving forward faces many challenges post COVID-19, and staff wellbeing needs to be one of the top priorities if businesses are to survive in the coming months. In my opinion, what brands and companies choose to do during this unprecedented time, will be remembered not just now, but for a long time after this crisis has ended.
We would urge all self employed individuals to review the government support HERE we can also recommend the following links for more information:
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