COVID-Proof Legal Essentials for Wellness Professionals: A Proven Plan for Security
By Cory Sterling, guest blogger, lawyer, and founder of Conscious Counsel
COVID-19 has completely changed how the wellness world operates. The laws and regulations that were in place prior to the pandemic will no longer keep you protected. As a result, your legal agreements must change too. It’s more important than ever to have best legal essentials in place to ensure your business and assets are protected.
As an attorney who has worked with hundreds of wellness professionals who provide services like yoga and massage to salon and Pilates (and everything in between), I can assure you that there are certain steps every business owner needs to take to ensure their business/studio/practice is secure in this new legal landscape.
As you look to have a successful year, here are the key COVID-proof legal essentials for wellness professionals you need in place for a strong, secure foundation.
How do you update your liability waiver forms?
In its most basic form, a waiver protects you from being sued. Whether you’re hosting a vinyasa yoga class, teaching barre via Zoom, or are the go-to massage professional in your community, you’ll need a waiver of liability before working with your clients.
The following is a 4-step guide to a locked and loaded waiver of liability for your business.
- Clearly define the activity you and your client will participate in: What is your role in this activity and what does the activity entail?
- Communicate the risks: Be open and honest in your communication including what can go wrong during the activity.
- Have your client make the choice: Ask your client if they understand the risks involved and if they are voluntarily agreeing to engage in the activity.
- Get your client’s signature: Have the client sign the waiver to waive future claims and release you from liability.
The key is to be open, honest, and clear. A waiver will not protect your business if it contains ambiguous terms. This is why it’s important for you to understand your business and what parts of your business your waiver of liability covers.
You’ll also want to pair your waiver of liability with professional liability insurance—a match made in legal heaven. The amount and type of insurance you purchase could cover anything over and above the contents of your waiver of liability.
Whether you like it or not, having a client test positive for COVID-19 is a possibility you need to prepare for. Have a legal waiver that includes specific language about the risk clients face of contracting COVID-19 while participating in classes. By doing so, you’re no longer liable for COVID-19 related issues that may arise. Paying a small fee for a legal document that protects you from COVID-19 related legal issues is a no brainer.
How do I protect myself against client chargebacks or disputes?
Update your membership or service agreements to protect your business from chargebacks or disputes. Adding some simple legal language goes a long way in protecting you against cancellations or terminations made outside the scope of your agreement.
For example, define your services as being offered BOTH online and in-person so you aren’t obligated to provide a refund if you cannot lead an in-person class on a specific date.
You should also add a force majeure clause to your agreements to protect you from unforeseeable circumstances that might prevent you from fulfilling your contract.
Be proactive: resign agreements now
Use this drastic change in our industry and the way in which we provide our services as a catalyst to get all your agreements down in writing. Understand and be confident in your relationships. There has never been a better time to reorganize your written agreements to suit the new needs of your business.
This is your best opportunity to make sure everyone you have a business relationship with has signed an agreement that openly and honestly communicates your expectations.
What’s the difference between an employee vs. a contractor?
Are the amazing individuals that help your business considered employees or contractors? This is one of the most common (and most important) agreements you will come across in your business, as there are operational and legal implications attached to each designation. What’s the difference?
- Employees are generally under the employer’s control. They have set hours, complete work as instructed, use the business’s property to carry out their tasks, and may wear the business logo or uniform. Your employees also have rights under employment legislation—think maximum hours, statutory holiday pay, or rules around leaves of absence. And since you love and trust your employees, you’ll want to make sure their legal entitlements are respected.
- A Contractor is essentially an individual or a group with a specialization who you hire to perform work for your business. They have control over their schedule, freedom to choose how they carry out their work, they use their own materials, and may contract out their services to many different people or businesses at once. Think of a bookkeeper, graphic designer, or an expert in the trades.
Why does it matter?
The distinction between employees and contractors matters because of the tax implications. As a business owner paying an employee, you deduct taxes for them, and this is reflected on the employee’s pay stub. But when you pay a contractor, you pay them in full and they are responsible for taking care of their own taxes later.
So, think of employees and contractors as two separate streams. How they each navigate their path is different, while their tasks and processes are unique. At the same time, they return to the same body of water—the ocean that is your business.
What municipal laws do I need to know?
Depending on where you live, your jurisdiction will give you instructions on the parameters in which you’re allowed (or are not allowed) to operate. Make sure to review the municipal laws of your jurisdiction and plan to follow them. These laws could include regulations on indoor/outdoor classes, entry access, gathering size, protective gear, and cleaning standards.
Strictly adhere to these rules. If you don’t, a client could make a negligence claim against you, which would expose you to liability. Following the rules is the easiest and most basic way to protect you and your business. Our tip? Post the rules publicly in your studio. Have a Zoom call with your staff, record it, discuss the rules, and keep each other accountable.
Be proactive. Be safe. Have fun! The world needs You!
While this period has challenged the wellness industry, it has presented us with an opportunity to strengthen our businesses. Use this time to be strategic—make your business stronger and give it more legal protection than ever.
If you are interested in any of Conscious Counsel’s COVID-19 Legal Packages or if you are looking for legal help in this new commercial landscape, contact us today and mention you are with the WellnessLiving community to receive 10% off your future Conscious Counsel legal agreement.
And last but not least, thank you. The world needs wellness now more than ever. It’s leaders like YOU who choose to show up that make a difference. Now that you’ve covered your legal essentials for wellness professionals, it’s time you manage and grow your business with the right business management tools. WellnessLiving’s all-in-one software can help. Book a free, no-commitment demo to learn more today!
For more visit Conscious Counsel visit, https://consciouscounsel.ca/.
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