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Self-employed or not… the working models which fall foul.

Fitness Chain ‘Gym Group’ is in the spotlight after a personal trainer blew the whistle on its self-employment business model.   This has resulted in Gym Group being called before the House of Commons Work and Pension Committee to explain itself.

The personal trainer who blew the whistle queried elements of his written terms and conditions with Gym Group which for example required him to appoint a substitute in the event that he was not available for work, to give notice of any intention to take holidays, and to give notice in the event of terminating the agreement.  In addition he was required to wear a Gym Group uniform at all times on the premises and to work on a shift system at set hours that was set by them.

Interestingly the written agreement stated that Gym Group trainers were required to agree that they were neither employees or workers, but instead were ‘freelance independent personal trainers’.

One of the members of the Committee, the Right Honourable Frank Field has written to the CEO of Gym Group and has suggested that the terms and conditions in the written agreement ‘appear to be incompatible with self-employment’. He also expressed his opinion that this was ‘one of the most egregious examples’ of ‘dubious self-employed working models’ he had come across.

The main focus of the complaint is that Gym Group are circumventing employment protection rights of its personal trainers by falsely setting them up as self employed agents, when in fact at the very least n law they are workers.   This is important as it affords various protections  to workers including the right to the national minimum wage and holiday pay.

The Right Honourable Frank Field also said that this arrangement ‘underscores the urgent need for new legislation to protect workers against bogus self-employment – something I very much hope the Prime Minister will find time to allow Select Committees to pursue in this Parliament.’

This is another nail in the coffin for the advancement of so called self -employed arrangements where Companies are clearly attempting to avoid their legal  duties and responsibilities by the use of such bogus models.

It is clear that in these circumstances the personal trainer was controlled by Gym Group in terms of his specific hours of work, and being forced to represent himself as a member of their staff by having to wear their uniform.    Hopefully they will now change their practices and will act responsibly to their personal trainers after this exposure.

If you have any concerns about your current arrangements and business models then it is recommended that you contact Head of Employment Law,  Steven Eckett at Meaby & Co for timely advice seckett@meaby.co.uk.