If you are thinking of starting a yoga studio, or offer yoga classes, you have probably given a little bit of thought to hiring a certain type of yoga instructor. It would also be prudent to consider what terms you would like included in your employment contracts.

No doubt you have ideas about how your studio is to look and feel, how classes are to be held, the atmosphere in the space and what you want to teach. However hiring and keeping the right staff is vital to this, and setting the right tone in your employment contracts is therefore important.

Why do I need an employment contract?

Employment contracts are the bedrock of your relationship with your employees and define the way your business runs, what you expect from their staff and what they can expect from you in return. It is also important to protect yourself and establish your business on a solid foundation.

Employment contracts should achieve a few things:

  • Establish what you expect of your staff such as their duties, hours, pay and further education;
  • Inform your staff members what to expect of you and the business;
  • Protect you legally and financially; and
  • Be able to be adapted for the growth of your business.

What should I include in my yoga instructor employment contracts?

Before you start creating any contracts you should clearly decide:

  • What you expect of your employees – both in terms of hours and duties;
  • How much you are willing to pay each employee; and
  • Anything else that is critical for your employees to be able to do, or learn to do.

Everything that is relevant to an employee’s conduct at work should be included in the contract so that there is as little scope as possible for misunderstanding between the parties.

Obviously there are going to be some things that are very specific to your yoga studio that would not be in many employment contracts. Some important things to consider are:

Interaction with students

Your teachers and other staff such as those at the front desk are going to be interacting with your clients, in some instances quite intimately. You need to be able to trust that these teachers will take the required level of class participants – both physically (for example assisting attendees with pose adjustments where necessary or helpful to deepen their practice) and often mentally, by sharing personal stories and spiritual concepts.

Although we don’t like to talk about it there is a risk that teachers can overstep these boundaries, either intentionally or by accident, and a class participant can be hurt. You need to make sure your studio is protected as much as it can be in these circumstances. To do so your employment contracts should clearly set out how you expect employees to act towards studio attendees and clear boundaries between teachers and students, and among staff themselves.

Intellectual Property

There have been some high profile cases in the yoga community about “ownership” of a series of asana (for example Bikram). While this has not really hit Australia outside the Bikram model, there will most likely be intellectual property that your employees bring to work and that they create at work that you may want to protect. For example you may create a series of beginners classes that gradually introduce students to the yoga fundamentals – you probably do not want your teachers taking these classes and the theory behind them to any other studio that they may teach at.

Music

Another side of intellectual property is the use of music in classes. You should be specific in your employment contracts about the obligations on teachers to only use music that has been approved by you, and does not open your studio to intellectual property infringement claims. You may also wish to look into acquiring a licence that enables you to play others peoples music in public – this is a licence from the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia Limited (known commonly as the PPCA” and more information about this can be found at http://www.ppca.com.au/). We can also of course assist you with any further discussions about how you should protect yourself and your studio in respect to intellectual property.

Non-compete and Conflict of Interest

It is common in employment contracts, especially permanent part of full-time contracts, to include clauses prohibiting employees from providing their services to competitors or working in similar businesses. This, by and large, will probably be impractical with yoga teachers as many of them work at a few studios to earn a living, and even teach private classes to students individually. You should think carefully about whether you want to ask your teachers not to work for any other studios as many will not agree to such a provision, and it may well be unreasonable to ask them to do so. A better way to approach this could be to ask that they do not undertake work which would conflict with their work at your studio, and that they do not actively seek to take students or contacts from your studio.

Acting in the studio’s best interest

Also commonly included in employment contracts are provisions that employees should act in their employer’s best interest. This will be a softer way of requiring teachers not to direct students away from your studio to another one.

At the end of the day, you want your employees to be happy where they work and to feel appreciated so that they are productive and loyal to your business. However, you also need to remember that as an employer and as a studio owner you do have responsibilities and liabilities that need to be mitigated and managed where possible.

Conclusion

This article is only a short take on some of the issues that may arise in the yoga industry. We do suggest talking to an experienced employment lawyer prior to commencing engaging your employees and other staff as it is better to start out with the right structure than try to fix it up when something isn’t working.

For now, Namaste.

Lisa More

Next Steps

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