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here are two sides to the story here, as therapists do complain about wages, pay packages and working conditions – some-


times with validity, sometimes not. There’s no standard wage or way to pay


therapists in the US and fluctuations may occur depending on where a spa is located, variations in prices, cost of living and demand. I’m not bothered by inconsisten- cies, just as I’m not bothered by the fact that it costs more to get a service in New York City or LA versus other cities. However, this probably does leave the


system open for abuse and I think this effects new therapists just out of training more. Most often a wage is paid in addi- tion to commission/a percentage of the treatment price, in this case newbies may be at risk as consumers don’t typically want an inexperienced therapist. Some – but not all – cruise lines take on


very young women right out of training and pay them little with the idea that they gain some experience and get to see the world. Few get see the world as time off


the ship is limited. Yet many spa directors have cut their teeth on cruise lines and interns in most fields – medicine, hospital- ity, food and beverage – are quite rightly paid less compared to a senior person who looks for better pay and benefits and moves on if the conditions are not good. Few therapists are truly captive in a


work situation. They’re free to negotiate whether they want to be full-time or part-time employees, or whether they want to run their own business in addition to their full-time contract. Exact salary may not matter as much as proper benefits. I’ve not seen the full PKF study which


indicates that US hotel therapists receive poor benefits. In general, benefits may be low but I’d think that if a therapist takes home 40 per cent or more of the price a


treatment, plus gratuity, then it’s hard to give them more – but you really need to hear the management side of this. If employees sign a contract to work


full-time and waive the right to run their own business, then they do deserve at least minimum healthcare and insurance. And if they’re truly going to stay with the company for a number of years then stock options could be offered too. Do the lack of standards mean that opera-


tors take advantage of staff? It’s possible. But in all my years, I’ve never see a good therapist who’s not taken good care of.


Mary Tabacchi has been an active figure in the spa industry since the 1980s and created Cornell University’s first spa- specific course. Details: www.cornell.edu


MARY TABACCHI Professor, Cornell University, USA


This probably does leave the system open for abuse and I think this effects new therapists just out of training more


F


or most therapists, zero-hour contracts do not offer financial security or commitment from the employer and there’s little loyalty


to ensure delivery of quality standards. They can, however, work for short-term cover provided it suits both parties. On the rare occasion that we employ a


person on a zero-hour contract – out of our 26 current therapists only one is on a zero- hour contract – it’s offered when we don’t have a guaranteed place in the team but want to give someone an opportunity to come on board. This can help the business in terms of sickness cover and last-minute bookings, but it’s not something that works as a long-term commitment. As soon as a new therapist has proven


their value in the team, it’s important they get all of our employee benefits and security of guaranteed hours. We offer paid holiday, a pension where


we match a therapists’ 5 per cent contribu- tion and statutory sick pay – monies for when people are off for lengths at a


LIZ HOLMES Spa director, Rockliffe Hall, UK


time. We don’t pay for sporadic sick days, instead we reward therapists up to £100 a month for good attendance. In terms of guaranteed hours, 40 hours


a week is standard, but we’ve found that some therapists prefer flexible or shorter hours – anything from 24 to 32 hours – so we fit in with what suits the individual. I’m not aware of staff exploitation in


UK spas, but it’s interesting to look at it as part in terms of retention which is something that does need addressing. From an employers perspective, therapists tend to move round more than in other areas of hospitality. Our average therapist term is 15 months across both full-time and zero-hours and our strategy is to get that to two years. The goal is to focus on a


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giving them a sense of achievement. We’ll make sure they have the opportunity to train and will measure their progress so that we can give them recognition. If employers want commitment, they


need to commit themselves. Yes therapists are a transient group who only form a small part of the business, but if a com- pany wants to be taken seriously, it needs a core group of dedicated people which it looks after too. It’s a two-way relationship and unfortunately you’re never going to get that with zero-hour contracts.


Liz Holmes manages a team of 60 staff at Rockliffe Hall. She’s worked in the UK spa and fitness sector for 10 years. Details: www.rockliffehall.com


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