WNiF Magazine - Summer 2017 Edition | Page 16

By Meridian Lawyers HOW FIT ARE YOU, LEGALLY? I n the first of our series of articles which provides legal guidance for participants in the fitness industry, we’re sharing guidance from Meridian Lawyers, who regularly advise Fitness Professionals to help them understand their risks, roles and responsibilities in an increasingly litigious and regulated environment. In this article, Michael Bracken and Greg Bawden from Meridian identify some of the risks involved with operating as a sole trader. Working as a Fitness Professional (FP) can be a rewarding career, but the responsibilities also carry a number of substantial and potential legal and business risks. 16 With Summer often bringing an increase in demand for the services of FP’s, now is a good time to check that you, and your business, are well protected. Personal liability exposure. Am I at risk as a sole trader? In one example which occurred in 2017, a personal trainer, and franchise gym where he worked, made news headlines when the gym was sued for $200,000 by a client who had to spend a week in hospital after being injured during his training session, despite complaining about feeling unwell during his session. It is not uncommon for FP’s to operate their business as a sole trader as this structure has a number of advantages, being relatively cheap to establish, offering autonomy in decision making and it is easy to administer which makes it an attractive option. However, a sole trader business structure also carries with it the obligation of unlimited personal liability and lacks some of the benefits of other corporate structures in circumstances where your business or sources of income grow. Corporate or company structures can provide an opportunity to limit some legal liabilities and by not having the benefit of limited liability a sole trader is personally responsible, without a limit, for the debts of the business and any claims made against the business. This means that all of your personal assets, including any assets jointly-owned with another person, such as a house, may be at risk should a claim be made against you. There are a range of business and legal risks which fitness FP’s must navigate. To make matters worse, the gym claimed that the uninsured personal trainer was not its employee, and therefore could be personally liable for any damage. This example and other similar cases, illustrate how important it is to take precautions to protect yourself, and be proactive, as good intentions will not be enough. 7 steps to help lower your risk. 1. Assess and be aware of the legal risks, know your legal responsibilities, and the legal standard to which you are required to perform including professional standards and guidelines. Overall, know your client and manage the legal risk having regard to the client profile. WHAT’S NEW IN FITNESS - SUMMER 2017