Gym memberships are gaining popularity as an employee benefit as employers strive to support staff health and wellbeing, engage employees and attract and retain talent.
What is corporate gym membership?
Corporate gym membership offers employees either fully-funded or discounted membership to a gym, health club or leisure centre, provided as a core, flexible or voluntary benefit.
Where can employers get more information?
Who are the main providers?
There are no official statistics, but some of the biggest established market players include David Lloyd Leisure, FItness First, Nuffield Health, Incorpore, LA Fitness and Virgin Active.
For example, Google offers its staff free gym access and fitness classes, while JP Morgan, Pepsi and Barclays use GymFlex to offer their employees low-cost access to a gym through salary sacrifice arrangements.
Corporate gym membership involves employers negotiating discounted contracts with local and national gym operators, or providing access to on-site gym facilities at little or no cost to staff.
Membership can cost from £10 to more than £100 per month per employee, depending on the gym chain and branch location. Contract terms vary too, with some contracts requiring staff to sign up for a minimum of a year.
Memberships can be offered as a core benefit or through a flexible or voluntary benefits schemes. In fact, gym memberships and retail or leisure discounts are the most commonly offered benefits via voluntary benefits schemes, according to Employee Benefits’Benefits research 2014, published in May.
The rise of budget gyms has made it easier for employers to offer a perk that staff can afford more easily, with employees able to pick and mix their membership package. For example, some gyms allow members to pay only for use of one of their gyms and then pay for fitness classes on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Gym membership contracts have also become more flexible, with shorter-term options, after an Office of Fair Trading investigation supported employers’ calls for less restrictive terms.
A number of established gym chains, such as Virgin Active, have responded to the rise of budget gyms by ploughing millions of pounds into their existing gym networks to create ‘health clubs’, which has resulted in a two-tier gym market.
Health and wellbeing strategy
Employers are increasingly offering staff access to gym membership through their health and wellbeing benefits strategy. Organisations are striving to offer something for everyone, including gentler fitness class options such as yoga and meditation, and support for more holistic wellbeing topics such as mental health, work-life balance, nutrition and sleep.
Advice is also being offered on topics such as healthy eating and stress and debt management, which is proving popular.
Gym membership can also help employers to support an ageing workforce, with the number of staff aged over 60 set to rise by 13% by the end of the decade, according to Age UK’s Later life in the United Kingdom report, published in November.
Also, research from the University of Bristol has found that employees who exercise regularly are generally happier, more confident and more forgiving to their colleagues, creating a more pleasant working environment.
The research, published in the International journal of workplace health management in January 2014, also found that nutrition makes a substantial contribution to a content and motivated workforce, with healthy eating boosting employees’ wellbeing, energy and long-term health, so offering gym membership is an obvious choice for any organisation looking to boost staff productivity.
13% of employers offer corporate gym membership to all staff as a core benefit and 14% as a flexible benefit (The benefits research, Employee Benefits, May 2014)
Nuffield Health’s revenue grew by 3% in 2013 (Nuffield Health annual report , June 2013)
4.4 million British adults belong to a gym or leisure centre (Kantar Media TGI Clickstream, September 2014)