A profitable Boston-area yoga studio has set a new commonplace for a way yoga studios compensate their academics. Last month, Down Under School of Yoga introduced its choice to forego the extra typical “independent contractor” mannequin and make each instructor on their employees an worker—even those that solely train a few courses per week. This signifies that all of them at the moment are eligible for sick days and retirement funds, and full-time academics (who train 12 courses or extra per week) are provided health insurance coverage.
“The reason most yoga teachers are independent contractors is because they’re being exploited,” says Justine Wiltshire Cohen, director of Down Under, which has three places within the Boston space. “If you teach one class for me you are an employee, and the only benefit that is tied to the number of classes you teach is health care.”
Wiltshire Cohen argues that the present American paradigm of hiring most yoga academics as unbiased contractors is antithetical to the principles of yoga.
“Yoga’s dirty little secret is the vast majority of yoga studios are still calling employees independent contractors, so they don’t have to give security and benefits,” she says. “It is almost impossible to make a living as a yoga teacher this way. The practice is meant to cultivate single focus, but 99 percent of teachers are traveling all over the city (from studio to studio). Very few have weekends, let alone two days off in a row.”
Wiltshire Cohen believes the onus is on studio house owners to interrupt this cycle and put academics first. “You can’t teach if you’re exhausted,” she says. “It’s a marvelously complex thing to plan a yoga class. No human being on earth could do that 30 times a week. It becomes rote, and teachers can’t keep it up longer than a couple of years. Then they give up, go back to their ‘real’ (corporate) job.”
Down Under’s determination is according to the Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law, which means that typically, when a yoga instructor often teaches yoga on website, it’s indicative of that individual being an worker, fairly than an unbiased contractor. While some academics may very well be unbiased contractors (relying on the information of their association with the corporate), it’s probably that many are literally staff, based on the regulation. (Every state has totally different interpretations of unbiased contractor regulation and worker regulation, notes Andrew Tanner, chief ambassador for Yoga Alliance.)
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The Cost of “Doing the Right Thing”
Wiltshire Cohen concedes that making each instructor an worker was an costly and “daring” choice for Down Under, which is at present celebrating its 12th yr in enterprise.
“It has taken me 10 years to get to this point to undertake such an ambitious thing,” she says. “I’m getting calls from studios throughout the nation questioning, ‘How are you doing this? This would bankrupt us.’”
After three and a half years of cautious planning, and at a value of greater than $100,000, Down Under was capable of make the shift, with out elevating the worth of courses.
“We did not have $100,000-plus sitting around, and our team has overcome many hurdles, dips, and phases of fragility to pull this off,” Wiltshire Cohen says. “But my team has an unwavering commitment to the people who choose to make Down Under their home, to leading the way in the way in the American yoga dialogue, and to steadfast, intelligent planning for ambitious goals. These three qualities are the reasons we were able to afford this latest move. We also decided to open a third studio in Cambridge to help pay for this development and to ensure we can hold up roof. Stay tuned for a fourth location as we aim to get every teacher who wants health care to full-time.”
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Why the Independent Contractor Model Will Persist
Nicki Doane, co-owner and director of Maya Yoga Studio in Maui, says she applauds Down Under’s determination to make each single yoga instructor on employees an worker, however personally doesn’t see it as one thing the business can aspire to. “If I were required to employ each teacher [as an employee] and provide health benefits, sick days, etc., I could not operate my business,” she says. “I think it would be nice if the bigger, more successful studios did do the employee thing for their teachers if they could sustain it financially.”
Tanner additionally admires Down Under’s determination, however agrees that it won’t be lifelike or fascinating for each studio or each instructor. “Certainly we think what Down Under is doing is amazing; they’re a leader and we want to applaud them. On the same token, every studio and teacher has to make those decisions on an independent basis. For teachers teaching a lot of classes, benefits like retirement and sick leave are amazing. For teachers teaching one class a week, they might just rather have all the money in their paycheck. If you’re an independent contractor, you can write off your expenses, e.g., your website, the classes you take.” Not to say health insurance coverage premiums.
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Tanner credit Down Under’s hard-earned success with affording them the power to make this pioneering determination however says such a transfer would put different studios out of enterprise.
“Certainly not every studio could do this. Paying all teachers as employees amounts to an 8–12 percent increase in payroll. When statistics tell us the average studio has a profit margin of 13 percent, that kind of increase is huge,” he says. “Some studios don’t have a classroom that can fit more than 12 people in it, so they’re limited as far as the amount of income they can make. It may have been impossible for Down Under to do this when they were renting a church.” (Down Under started in 2004 in a church corridor.)
But since Down Under can afford to make such a shift, the truth that they’re supporting academics over income is “incredibly admirable,” Tanner says. “This is an example of a very successful studio doing the right thing. I think they are showing the community something to aspire to. We’re excited about this model that they’re putting forward.”
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