Legal Guide for Personal Trainers

Last updated: 25 October 2021

Legal Guide for Personal Trainers – This step-by-step guide outlines everything you need to know from an Australian legal standpoint about being a personal trainer and running a personal training business. We cover:

  • Personal trainer qualifications, legislation, licenses and permits
  • Forms you should get a new client to sign
  • Legal notices you should post on your website, and
  • Setting up your personal training business

Being a personal trainer is not without its risks, for example, being sued by a client for causing them to be injured. However, doing things right will help avoid personal trainer legal issues and protect you and your business from lawsuits.

Legal issues covered in this guide

Click on any of the questions below to jump to that section of this legal guide.

If after reading this guide you still have a question, get in touch as we’d love to keep adding your questions to this comprehensive guide.

Personal Trainer Registration

What qualifications do I need to be a personal trainer in Australia?

In Australia, personal trainers have legal requirements to have an official personal trainer certification. Personal trainers need both a Certificate III in Fitness (SIS30315) and Certificate IV in Fitness (SIS40215). If you just have the Certificate III qualification you are only allowed to act as a gym floor instructor – instructing gym members on proper use of equipment and working with small groups.

In addition, many personal trainers find it helpful to be members of one of the Australian associations, such as Fitness Australia or Exercise & Sports Science Australia. However, this is not mandatory or required.

To join, these associations will need evidence of your fitness certification plus current first aid and CPR certificates. The associations do not provide personal training certification themselves. The benefits of joining include access to discounted Exercise Professional Insurance, use of the association’s logo in your business marketing and a listing on their directory of personal trainers.

Can I be a personal trainer without certification?

No. You need to have official certification to be a personal trainer in Australia. You need a Certificate III in Fitness (SIS30315) to be a gym floor instructor, supervising and instructing gym members on proper use of equipment. Then in addition to a Certificate III you’ll also need a Certificate IV in Fitness (SIS40215) to be able to coach individual clients.

Do I need a license or permit to run a personal training business?

No. If you are conducting a normal personal training business, you do not need any special personal trainer licences or specific business permits. You only need to ensure your employees have the required accreditation with current fitness certificates and registration.

What qualifications do I need to run a bootcamp?

You may need to obtain a permit depending on your local council. Some councils impose fees on personal trainers who conduct fitness classes in their parks and reserves. Other councils may apply time restrictions to ensure there are no noise disturbances early in the morning. You need to check with your local council to see what rules and regulations apply and whether you need a permit to train your clients outdoors.

Here are the legal forms that we recommend you use in your personal training business:

  • Personal Training Contract: This clarifies the details of your personal training services. It is important that the Personal Trainer Contract includes Disclaimer, Cancellation Policy, Refunds Policy and Limitation of Liability clauses.
  • Medical History Checklist: This ensures you understand your client’s medical history and any conditions before you start training with them. You can include the Checklist as a page in your Personal Training Contract or get your clients to sign a separate form.
  • Release & Waiver of Liability: Where your client acknowledges and accepts the risks of injury from physical exercise. You can include the Waiver as a page in your Personal Trainer Contract or get your clients to sign a separate form.
  • Website Privacy, Disclaimer and Terms & Conditions: Exactly what legal notices you need on your website depends on what is on or sold through your website. For example, if you are selling supplements you’ll need to disclaim responsibility (other than what is legally required) for any loss or damage customers may suffer as a result of use or misuse of your products and limit your liability.
  • Membership/Subscriber Terms: If you run a membership or subscription service on your website, you’ll need special Terms to cover this.

None of the legal forms are complicated – and using them will show you’re a professional operator. Plus, as we said at the beginning of this guide, doing things right will help avoid legal issues and protect you and your business from lawsuits.

Should I use a Personal Training Contract with my clients?

Yes. You should always use a written Personal Training Contract with your clients. This agreement lays out the terms under which you do business and limits your liability for any claims. Using a Personal Trainer Contract is professional, saves time and can reduce potential misunderstandings.

A properly drafted Personal Training Contract should include:

  • Description of your personal training services
  • Payment amounts and frequency
  • Acknowledgment and acceptance of all fitness activity risks by your client
  • Indemnity and release from your client
  • Cancellation and no show policy

You should also post a standard version of your Personal Training Contract on your website, under your Terms & Conditions.

Should I use a Medical History Checklist with my clients?

Yes. A Medical History Checklist is used to identify people who may have medical conditions which put them at higher risk of injury during physical activity and exercise. Always use a Checklist to decide whether the potential benefits of exercise outweigh the risks for a particular individual.

Also remember that medical information is personal and confidential and needs to be protected under Australia’s Privacy legislation. This means you have specific obligations for collecting, using and storing your client’s medical and personal information.

Should my clients sign a Liability Waiver or Risk Warning Form?

Yes. These are two names for the same form, where your client acknowledges and accepts the risks of injury from physical exercise. You can include this waiver in your Personal Training Contract, Medical History Checklist or get your clients to sign a separate form.

Website Legals

What Terms & Conditions should my personal training website include?

This depends on the type of personal training business you run and how you use your personal training website. For example:

If your website is just an advertisement for your personal training services with a contact form, then you can get away with just having a Privacy Policy statement. But we would encourage you to also include a standard version of your Personal Training Contract – so your potential clients see you as a professional operation.

If you use your website to sell equipment, clothing, instruction videos, e-books or online courses you will need to have comprehensive website Terms & Conditions, that meet a number of Australian Consumer law requirements.

If your website is a subscription or membership-type model, then you should have special website Terms & Conditions that include taking recurring monthly/annual payments and an agreement not to on-sell your materials.

If you need any help deciding what kind of Website Terms & Conditions you need, get in touch with Legal123 here.

What Privacy Policy should I have if I collect personal health information?

Health and medical information is one of the most sensitive types of personal information. For that reason, Australian Privacy legislation requires you have extra protections around the handling of this type of information.

Your Privacy Policy notice should include:

  • What personal information you collect and store
  • How the personal information is collected and stored
  • Why you collect and use this personal information
  • When is the personal information updated or destroyed
  • When you might have to disclose this personal information
  • If the personal information is shared with overseas recipients
  • If the information is shared overseas, in which countries are the recipients
  • Your business contact details

And your personal training business should live by that Policy. For example, if you say you purge your customer database every year of non-current customer information – then that is what you should do. So make sure to build it into your business processes, for example, as part of your annual financial year end accounting process.

Fitness professionals can provide basic healthy eating information that follows the Australian Dietary Guidelines. There should be no issues, as long as the nutrition advice is scientifically correct, promotes healthy eating and includes a referral to a dietician for matters outside the Guidelines.

However, there are risks with people changing their diet and taking new supplements – potentially suffering allergic reactions, illness or other negative impacts. So protect yourself by covering allergies in your Medical History Checklist and including a Disclaimer that covers any nutrition or supplement advice you provide in your Personal Training Contract.

Structuring Your Personal Training Business

What business structure should I use for my personal training business?

In Australia, there are generally 4 options for structuring your business:

  • Sole trader
  • Pty Ltd Company
  • Partnership, and
  • Trust

The best business structure for you will depend on your personal circumstances – and getting this decision right is very important. So talk to your accountant about the pros and cons of each option. Here’s a quick summary of each option.

Being a Sole Trader is the simplest and least expensive option. Designed for business owners who are the sole proprietors of their companies, this structure doesn’t give you much protection if things go wrong. Your personal assets are unprotected from any claims arising from your business.

Incorporation (i.e. forming a Proprietary Limited Company) effectively makes your business a separate legal entity from you. This structure involves quite a bit of paperwork and can be more expensive to maintain but it offers your personal assets protection from liability. Only your company assets are at risk in the event of any legal actions and company debts.

Creating a Partnership allows you to go into business with multiple people and share income. Partnerships are easier and less expensive than Companies to set up. However, all partners together are personally responsible for business debts and actions against the Partnership. And each partner is individually liable for debts incurred by the other partners. This means you have unlimited liability, unlike a Company structure.

A Trust isn’t an organisation at all, but instead a legal structure to hold assets. For example, you might set up a Trust to hold your business assets, then appoint a Trustee to manage them. Commonly, the Trustee is a Company and the Trust provides asset protection and limits liability from operating the business. Trusts are very flexible for tax purposes. However, a Trust is a complex legal structure and establishing a Trust costs significantly more than a Sole Trader or Partnership.

For more detailed information on each of these business structures, see our feature article: How to Choose the Right Business Structure in Australia.

Should I trademark my personal training business name?

Just because you set up a Pty Ltd company or registered your business name with ASIC, this does not protect your brand name. Any business can use your brand name. The only way to protect your brand name and restrict its use, is to register it as a trademark with IP Australia.

This concept is one of the most misunderstood aspects of starting or running a business. And business owners frequently contact us because someone has started using their brand name – which they thought they owned!

Should I register my personal training business for GST?

If your personal training business has annual revenues of over $75,000 then you must register for GST. If you have annual revenues of less than $75,000 then talk to your accountant about your options.

Do I need liability insurance to be a personal trainer?

It is a good idea to have personal trainer insurance due to the high risk of client injury and potential claims. As a personal trainer you should consider 2 types of liability insurance:

  • Professional Indemnity Insurance, and
  • Public Liability Insurance

Professional Indemnity Insurance covers you if a client claims that the professional advice, goods or services you provided as a personal trainer were negligent and caused them injury or loss. You have a duty of care when you hold yourself out to be a professional and people rely on your expertise.

For example, if your client suffers injury while using a fitness program that you designed, you may be sued by the client for medical costs and loss of income while they are off work. Professional Indemnity Insurance is intended to cover such claims.

Public Liability Insurance covers you if a third party suffers personal injury or property damage from the operation of your personal training business. Public Liability Insurance covers claims that arise from a breach of duty you owe to the public in general, however, it does not cover claims resulting from your negligence.

For example, if someone tripped over weights you left out in the park while boot camp training, you would be liable and Public Liability Insurance is intended to cover this circumstance.

As with all insurance policies, read the terms and conditions carefully and make sure the insurance you are buying covers your particular circumstances. And if in doubt, engage an insurance broker and get their help.

What if my client sues me for getting injured?

Your Personal Training Contract, signed by your client, should include Disclaimer and Limitation of Liability clauses. These will provide your first layer of protection. Your second layer of protection will come from your Professional Indemnity Insurance. This covers any financial loss your client claims from medical expenses and loss of income.

We hope you found this Legal Guide for Personal Trainers helpful.

About Vanessa Emilio

Vanessa Emilio (BA Hons, LLB, ACIS, AGIA) is the Founder and CEO of Legal123.com.au and Practice Director of Legal123 Pty Ltd. Vanessa is a qualified Australian lawyer with more than 20 years experience in corporate, banking and trust law. Follow this link to read the full bio of Vanessa Emilio.