Work and Pensions Committee calls out “egregious” self-employment contract

Posed by modelsWestEnd61/REX/Shutterstock
Posed by models
WestEnd61/REX/Shutterstock

The Work and Pensions Committee has called for fitness chain Gym Group to explain itself after a personal trainer blew the whistle on its self-employed business model.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, who is chair of the committee, said this was one of “the most egregious examples” he had seen to date of “dubious self-employed working models”.

The trainer sent in his work “agreement” to the Work and Pensions Committee querying the terms of his contract.

It requires him, among other conditions, to appoint a substitute if he is not available to work; give notice of holidays; give notice if he requires to terminate the contract; wear a Gym Group uniform at all times; and work on a pre-arranged shift system set by the company.

The contract suggests that Gym Group trainers are, furthermore, required to agree that they are neither employees or workers, but “freelance independent personal trainers”.

In a letter to John Treharne, CEO of Gym Group, Field suggests these conditions “appear to be incompatible with self-employment”.

Commenting on the contents of the whistleblower’s contract, Field said: “It is packed full of clauses that clearly suggest Gym Group’s “freelance independent personal trainers” are nothing of the sort, but are in fact workers entitled to the rights and protections that come with that status.

“I look forward to receiving Gym Group’s explanation of this state of affairs. But even more importantly, this contract, and the other examples we’ve received, demonstrate that the current system for protecting and enforcing workers’ rights is failing.

“It 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.”

Earlier this year, a Government-commissioned report by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, looked into increased concerns around self-employment models, and suggested the creation of a new legal worker status known as “dependent contractor”.

However, the Government is yet to publish further details or confirm whether this will be enshrined in legislation.

Michael Newman from the employment team at Leigh Day, said: “It may be the case that once again we have a company looking to avoid its responsibilities by using bogus ‘self-employment’ resulting in the denial of basic employment rights for those workers.

“We have seen such behaviour before and everything which has been reported suggested this could also be the case in regard to how the Gym Group treat people who have to behave as workers but have none or only some of the benefits.”

Field has asked Gym Group to respond to his committee’s concerns by 10 November.

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