Part IV: Which is Better…Costs and Liability Issues.

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  • Part IV: Which is Better…Costs and Liability Issues.


I want to do a short recap to this series…so please bear with me. In this continuation of the series, “Which is better…”, Part I explores the most basic differences between a personal trainer who is hired as an independent contractor and one who is hired as an employee. Part II explores compensation with both the independent contractor and the employee. Part III explores whether or not gym members have a preference in the hiring status of their personal trainers and whether or not they can even tell the difference. If you have not explored Part III, please do so now (spoiler alert ahead!)… What I found out (with great feedback on other professional fitness networking sites, such as IdeaFit)is that gym members generally either did not care about or could not tell how their personal trainer was hired at their gym. Another eye opener was that some of the feedback from personal trainers in reference to Part III of the series revealed that personal trainers could choose to wear a uniform of their own, distinguishing themselves apart from the gym, while other gyms did not give the personal trainers a choice to do so and they had to set themselves apart from the employee personal trainers at the gym. I have found that with the later policy, trainers may have felt ostracized in their environment, while the personal trainers who were given a choice felt either empowered in their representation both to their current client and future potential clients.

Most Common Costs Associated with Personal Trainers:

As a continuation of the series, “Which is better…”, Part IV touches upon the most basic cost and liability issues that should be considered when a fitness facility hires a personal trainer. As a gym owner or manager, it is your responsibility to provide your members with access to a number of services, including those of a professional personal trainer. However, you do have to decide whether you are going to place your personal trainers on the payroll or if you are simply going to use a series of independent contractors to do the job. There are inherent costs and liability that you need to assess before you make your final choice.

Payday to Payday

Of all the different costs associated with having personal trainers in your gym, those associated with hiring your own trainers are likely to be the highest ones. Since in doing things this way, you are adding them to your payroll, you are going to be paying them an hourly wage or salary. This means that as long as they are on the clock, you will be paying them, whether gym guy posingthey are working with one of your members or not. As long as they have a long list of clients you will be getting the most for your money, but when times are slow, you may end up paying out more than you are taking in.

On the other hand, if you use independent contractors, you never have to pay them unless you offer their services for free to your members as part of an introductory package. At which point you may have to pay the cost of the time your members use. Other than this the only other real cost on a day to day basis is in ensure that you have them covered under your workers’ compensation insurance.

Insurance That the Gym Owner Should Carry at All Times

No matter whether the gym owner is going to hire their own paid employee or go with independent contractors, there is one form of insurance that they may be required to have. Each gym will need to check with the laws in their particular state. Workers’ compensation is a must in order to cover the trainer in case he or she becomes injured while on the job. No matter what, you need to check your local and state laws to ensure you and your gym are properly insured.

Speaking of Insurance

When you have employee personal trainers, you will need to make sure you have the right level of liability insurance. This is necessary as not only will this insurance take care of things like medical bills and lost wages, should a member become injured during a training session. While independent contractors must carry their own liability insurance, most gym owners continue to carry their own liability insurance to cover any difference between what the independent contractor’s insurance covers and any liabilities that their insurance does not cover.

Speaking of Liability…How It Plays a Large Role in Choosing the Right Type of Personal Trainer

Other than costs and those issues discussed in the first three parts to the series, "Which is better…", liability is another serious consideration that a gym owner must account for when trying to decide whether to hire a paid personal trainer, or if using the services of one or more independent contractors is a better choice. Keep in mind that no matter which type of personal trainer a gym owner decides to go with, someone must carry full liability insurance just in case someone should end up getting hurt while under his or her tutelage.

Liability and the Salaried Personal Trainer

Chances are fair that at some point one of your members is going to injure themselves while working with their personal trainer. When this happens, someone must have sufficient liability insurance in place to cover things like medical expenses, loss of wages and any other damages that the member might be entitled to.

In the case of an hourly employee, the gym owner must be able to provide this insurance. However, given the nature of the business they are in, most gym owners already carry at least some level of liability insurance to cover the possibility of a member injuring themselves in a manner that can be legally described as being the fault of the gym. Thus, their insurance should cover any injuries deemed to be the cause of their personal trainers.

Liability and the Independent Contractor Personal Trainer

Here you are faced with a completely different dynamic. As the personal trainer is not an employee, you are not required by law to provide liability insurance of any kind. Each independent contractor is of course required to carry their own liability insurance in sufficient amounts to cover any type of injury that might be legally deemed to be their fault. However, with that said, it still can ultimately rest on the gym owner! It is of my opinion that no gym owner should allow an independent contractor to work in their gym until they have seen proof that they have the appropriate insurance coverage.