Managing Fitness Staff: An HR Perspective

April 7, 2024

This article contains some of the key ideas from a webinar presented by Ash Williams, and published on The Business of Fitness Podcast. Always seek independent legal advice as this information is general in nature and may not apply to your specific situation.

For gym owners and personal trainers, addressing performance issues and navigating the termination process are amongst the most challenging aspects of business management. Ensuring that these processes adhere to procedural fairness is not only a legal necessity but also crucial for maintaining a respectful and equitable work environment. Here’s an essential guide tailored for fitness business professionals in Australia.

Procedural Fairness: The Core Principle

Procedural fairness is the backbone of managing disciplinary actions and terminations, ensuring transparency and fairness throughout. It involves:

  • Right to a Fair Hearing: Before making any disciplinary decisions, employees must be informed of allegations against them and given a chance to respond. This principle is vital in fostering trust and fairness in your fitness business.
  • Documentation: After attempting to resolve an employee’s behavioural issues informally, transitioning to a documented formal process is recommended. This documentation is crucial, especially if termination is contested, forming a solid defence against potential unfair or unlawful dismissal claims.

Formal Process for Behavioural Issues

Persistent behavioural issues after informal discussions necessitate a formal and documented approach. Proper documentation supports your decision-making process, particularly in terminations, providing essential evidence for defending against unfair dismissal claims within the fitness industry context.

Unfair Dismissal Claims

Employees can file an unfair dismissal claim if they believe their termination was unjust. While specifics vary between state and federal systems, claims are generally due within 28 days of termination. Potential outcomes include reinstatement or compensation, highlighting the importance of a documented and fair process in fitness businesses.

Legal Representation Costs

Defending against an unfair dismissal claim can incur substantial legal fees, making procedural fairness and thorough documentation even more critical to avoid unnecessary financial burdens for your fitness business.

Unlawful Termination Complaints

There’s also the risk of unlawful termination complaints, where termination is alleged to be for discriminatory reasons. Proper documentation is your primary defence, underscoring the need for meticulous record-keeping and fair processes in the fitness industry.

Best Practices for Fitness Business Owners

  • Prioritise Fair and Transparent Processes: Ensure all disciplinary and termination actions in your gym or personal training business are carried out with procedural fairness.
  • Keep Detailed Records: Maintain comprehensive documentation of all steps taken from informal warnings to formal proceedings.
  • Stay Informed on Legal Requirements: Be aware of both state and federal laws regarding unfair dismissal and unlawful termination specific to the fitness industry.
  • Be Prepared for Legal Challenges: Robust documentation is key to defending against potential legal claims following a termination.

Managing performance and termination is a delicate part of running a fitness business, requiring careful navigation of legal and ethical considerations. By emphasising procedural fairness, thorough documentation, and an understanding of legal obligations, fitness professionals can manage these challenges effectively. This approach not only minimises the risk of legal disputes but also contributes to a fair and positive work environment within the fitness community in Australia.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.

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