Allow NSW Gyms to operate unstaffed

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Dear Mr Hazzard,

The Covid marshal restriction as it stands is unsustainable for the 500+ 24hr independent and franchised gyms in NSW. 

The main problems with the restriction are:

  • The costs are unsustainable - The restriction has at least doubled the staffed hours for these gyms across the state. Fitness Australia research found it is now costing on average an extra $2000-$5000 per week in wage costs. Most 24hr gyms are not designed to be staffed all the time. They do not have thousands of members and therefore large revenues to cover these heavy staffing costs. These are small businesses that are now struggling to make ends meet with regional gyms being hit the hardest with this restriction.

    Combine that with the fact that many of these gyms have now lost their eligibility for job keeper which has effectively made their businesses unviable and are now losing money.

    Staff and owners are worn out trying to cope with a huge increase in staffed hours. Many owners are working 80+ hours at their clubs just to make ends meet - in some cases even sleeping at their clubs to avoid falling into debt.
  • NSW is the only state (exception of Victoria) to have these strict restrictions - Fitness Australia has worked with Western Australia, ACT, South Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania and Queensland in coming up with a Covid Safe plan that allows gyms to have unstaffed hours. NSW Health have been uncompromising in their approach with Fitness Australia.
  • It isn't equal to what is seen in other industries that gyms are frequently compared to - Over 100 cases in NSW have been linked to pubs and yet a small pub can currently have 250 people with a Covid Marshal only required during peak times. NSW Health continues to compare the gym industry to hospitality and yet the rules are so much more lenient for pubs and restaurants. Recent Fitness Australia research found there were more than 7.31 million check-ins across 546 gyms in the first 8 weeks after they re-opened in NSW with zero cases of reported transmission. 
  • It is not as safe as allowing gyms to operate unstaffed - Most of these gyms cannot afford to staff 24/7 so have had to reduce their trading hours. This means that more people are going to be inside the gym at the same time. Fitness Australia research found on average gyms have seen at least a 30% increase in usage during peak hours. Operating 24hrs allows gyms to spread their patronage over a longer period of time limiting exposure to other people. The average gym has between 20sqm and 600sqm of space per person during unstaffed hours (Fitness Australia Research).
  • Many shift workers can no longer attend a safe fitness facility - Reduced trading hours means reduced access to safe and secure gyms for people in the community who need to use the gym at odd hours such as nurses, police and firemen.

The industry has tried working with NSW Health to come up with a healthy compromise but NSW Health continue to insist on this unproven restriction.

Fitness Australia make the following proposal to replace the current Covid Marshal restriction:

  • Reduced capacity during unstaffed hours to 10m2 per person (use of technology and data to monitor/cap).
  • Signage at the entrance that list the Covid Safe requirements to use facility including distancing and cleaning requirements
  • The capacity for the gym for both unstaffed and staffed hours must be displayed on the entrance doors to the gym
  • A thorough clean must be performed, preferably by a professional cleaner, daily at night after the last peak period of the day and before the first peak period of the following day. A log of this should be kept to prove that it has been done.
  • 24/7 gyms must review security camera footage daily. A staff log should be kept to prove this has been done.
  • Patrons observed to have broken Covid restrictions during unstaffed hours are to receive a written warning from the gym. Gyms may also introduce a "three strikes and you're out" policy if they wish.
  • Patrons should be encouraged to report to the gym other patrons seen to be not following Covid Safe restrictions.

We call on the NSW government to approve the proposal put forward by Fitness Australia and stop the suffering of these small businesses and the communities that they serve.

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