What help can I get as a fitness professional during the Coronavirus pandemic?
Updated: Apr 16
We are now a few weeks into the real coronavirus pandemic in the UK and it is just starting to become apparent to many of us the financial and emotional challenges that this time will bring. With many of us now stuck at home all day, you may start to worry about how you will be able to survive 1-3 months either fully out of work, or not working at the same volume as before the crisis. There are several different ways that you can get help from the UK government. Each scheme will have different eligibility criteria but there will definitely be one or more that will match your current situation. Below are the 5 main methods of help that fitness professionals can claim during the Coronavirus pandemic:
Coronavirus job retention scheme
If you are an employee of the facility you work for then you should probably have already been informed about whether or not they are taking advantage of the government’s job retention scheme. You are likely to be an employee if you are a PT or in-house staff for a commercial gym chain such as Virgin Active, David Lloyd, Nuffield Health, Fitness First or a council run facility. If you receive a payslip with deductions such as tax, NI and pensions taken off every month then you are an employee. If you pay rent to your facility you are probably ineligible for this scheme as you will class as self-employed.
Under the Coronavirus job retention scheme, you are eligible to become furloughed, meaning you cannot undertake any work for the company for the duration of your furlough. You will be eligible to receive 80% of your monthly wage from the government, up to £2500 per month. Some employers are topping this up to the full 100% from their own funds. If you are unsure what you can be paid or haven’t yet heard if you have become furloughed check in with your line manager or HR department.
On 26th March, the government announced they would be rolling out a similar scheme to the furlough initiative for self-employed, freelancers and agency workers. You will be able to claim a taxable grant of 80% of your trading profits with a maximum payment of £2500 per month. You will have to make over half of your income from self-employment, so you won’t be eligible for this scheme if you work mostly in an employed role but do a bit of freelance teaching or coaching on the side. At the minute you cannot apply for this scheme online, you will be contacted by the HMRC if you are eligible to make a claim.
Business loans or grants
If you are a gym or studio owner, there are a few different schemes the government has rolled out to support small businesses. The first is a business rate relief grant. Eligible companies will receive a one-off payment of £10,000 to help meet their ongoing costs during the pandemic. You will be contacted by the local authority if you can claim for this. You may also be eligible for a grant of up to £25,000 through the retail, hospitality and leisure scheme. Details of eligibility can be found here.
The government announced a further package of measures to help small businesses, including deferring tax and VAT payments, sick pay relief package and a loan interruption scheme to take the pressure off paying for liabilities in your business. You may also have insurance the covers you for government enforced closures or pandemics, of which COVID 19 was added to the list of recognised and notifiable diseases on 5th March 2020. The wording of each policy will be different so read through the small print carefully and take legal advice if you are looking to make a claim. Each business is likely to be eligible for a mixture of these schemes so the best thing to do is contact your local council or seek independent legal advice.
Universal credit was first introduced in 2013 and is package of six old styles of benefit, including housing and job-seeker's allowances. These payments are designed to cover your housing and living costs whilst you are searching for new employment or will help if have seen a sharp drop in your income. According to the Guardian, 950,000 people have signed up for UC since mid-March. If you are over 25 and living alone then the current standard allowance is £317.82 per month. If you are in a couple, then it is £498.89. Your standard allowance will then be topped up with further credits if you have children or are caring for someone else. Whilst not being a huge amount, every little bit will help during these tough times. You should be able to claim for UC if you are also claiming on the furlough scheme or through the self-employment scheme. To find out whether you are eligible and to make a claim, head to the gov.uk website.
Statutory Sick Pay
SSP is what every worker is entitled to if they cannot work for an extended period of time due to illness. It usually kicks in from your fourth day of absence from work but due to the pandemic, this was changed to the first day. The current rate of SSP is £94.25 per week. Current rules seem to state that you cannot claim SSP whilst taking part in the furlough scheme, but you can put in a claim for SSP and Universal credit. To find out whether you are eligible, have a look at this page on the government website.