What is corporate gym membership?
Where employers offer employers paid-for or discounted access to a gym, health club, leisure or sports centre, or even fitness classes and facilities, as part of the voluntary or flexible benefits package.
Where can employers get more information?
Visit the Employee Benefits website at: www.employeebenefits.co.uk
Who are the main providers?
Better Leisure Centres, David Lloyd Leisure, Fitness First, Incorpore, LA Fitness, Nuffield Health, and Virgin Active.
With regular exercise known to be beneficial for both physical and mental health, corporate gyms, gym membership and gym subsidies have gone beyond being viewed as an additional desirable benefit to become an important part of employers’ health and wellbeing strategies. They are one of the most commonly offered perks via a voluntary benefits scheme.
Some employers, such as food and drinks giant Nestle and sportswear retailers Sweaty Betty and Adidas Group, have on-site fitness centres at their corporate headquarters that are valued by employees. There is little doubt that this can considerably enhance an employer’s brand and serve as a powerful recruitment and retention tool, but they can prove costly to run and maintain.
More commonly though, employers negotiate favourable rates with local or national gym providers that are passed on to employees. Membership subsidies are typically then offered to employees through a salary sacrifice arrangement. Employers wishing to provide access to a wider choice of gyms and options could also consider third-party providers such as Incorpore, which can call on a network of 2,872 health clubs across the UK and Ireland. Employees pay directly for the gym near to where they live or work at a discounted rate of up to 30%.
The gym market does change and the rise of budget and pay-as-you-go gyms in recent years has seen the emergence of a two-tier market. These can bring membership costs down to as little as £10 a month and in some cases have no joining fee. In turn, some of the bigger names have responded with shorter, less restrictive contracts. The good news is that this means more options and flexibility for employers.
When talking to potential providers, employers must make sure they know what the experience will be like for the employee. Some individuals can find gyms intimidating if they have never been before. An employer should learn what free sessions will be available to staff and what scope there is for one-to-one sessions with a trainer. It should also find out how flexible the options really are. Better Leisure Centres, for instance, is a charitable social enterprise that has no minimum contract and offers flexible payment options. As well as gym facilities, it offers 70 swimming pools nationwide with swim-only membership as an option, as well as thousands of weekly group exercises.
In future, employees may want to be more targeted with their health and wellbeing strategies so employers can explore the scope for more tailored approaches. Is it possible, for instance, to select particular fitness classes for employees? In addition to health and wellbeing benefits for staff, there is mounting evidence that attending fitness classes with colleagues can also increase motivation and improve team building, leading to higher productivity.
- Employers’ gyms are one of the three most popular benefits for one-fifth of employees in their 20s and 30s, compared with just 13% in their 50s (Source: PWC, April 2015).
- 44% of employees want support from their employer to make healthy lifestyle changes (Source: Bupa, November 2015).
- 73% of employees choose to adapt their lifestyle to improve their physical health (Source: Bupa, November 2015).