Should my fitness staff be employees or contractors?

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.

Deciding whether to engage workers as employees or contractors is a common question in the fitness industry, influenced by complex laws. This choice affects how businesses operate and their obligations.

Employee Engagement

Hiring someone as an employee means entering into a formal employment contract that outlines work conditions, hours, and pay. Employers control the work done, provide all necessary equipment, may require wearing specific uniforms, and usually, employees don’t work for others. Key points include:

  • Control: Employers direct what employees do and when.
  • Equipment: The business provides everything needed for the job.
  • Payment: Employees get regular pay as per their contract.

Contractor Engagement

Contractors work independently under a contract but run their own business. They set their own hours, may use their own tools, and get paid upon completing tasks or based on service hours. Characteristics include:

  • Independence: Contractors manage their own work schedule and methods.
  • Business Ownership: They have their own business numbers, like an ABN in Australia.
  • Payment Structure: Pay is based on completed work or service hours, not a regular salary.

Legal Aspects and Penalties

Misclassifying employees as contractors to avoid costs like leave and superannuation is illegal. Recent federal laws have increased penalties for such “sham contracting,” with fines up to a maximum of 1.47 million dollars for serious breaches. This highlights the need for businesses to correctly classify their workers.

Recommendations for Businesses

To avoid legal and financial risks, businesses should:

  • Evaluate the Working Relationship: Use a multi-factor approach to determine the correct classification.
  • Seek Legal Advice: If unsure, getting professional advice can prevent mistakes.
  • Comply with ATO Guidelines: For contractors, obligations like superannuation contributions are mandatory and should not be overlooked.

Choosing between employee or contractor engagement comes down to how much control and flexibility a business needs and understanding legal responsibilities. Correct classification is crucial to avoid penalties and ensure fair working conditions, making informed decision-making essential in the fitness sector.

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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