Buyer’s guide to corporate gym membership

Product focus - gyms

The facts:

What is corporate gym membership?
This can be offered to staff by their employers on a paid-for or discounted basis, providing access to a gym, health club, leisure or sports centre, or even exercise classes, as part of a voluntary or flexible benefits package.

Where can employers get more information?
Visit the Employee Benefits website at:

Who are the main providers?
Better Leisure Centres, David Lloyd Leisure, Fitness First, Incorpore, Nuffield Health, Pure Gym and Virgin Active.

Employee health and wellbeing is a top business priority; it can boost employee engagement and productivity, and reduce sickness absence. Regular exercise plays a key role in wellness. Alongside improving physical wellbeing, it can improve concentration levels and the ability to think clearly, leaving people feeling invigorated and working at their best throughout the day.

Providing employees with access to a gym or fitness facilities, through employer-supported or subsidised gym membership, can play an important part in a corporate health and wellbeing strategy. By helping employees to stay fit and healthy, employers can expect to reap the rewards when it comes to sick leave and long-term health problems. It is also a taxable benefit and can be offered to staff on a free or discounted basis.

Some employers, such as Nestle, have their own on-site gym facilities. Pentland, which owns a number of sports, outdoor and fashion brands, also provides an on-site swimming pool, tennis court and football pitch. However, these can be costly to install and maintain. Some organisations have been innovative with alternatives; Google, for example, has installed a rooftop running track at its new headquarters in London.

An option for many employers is to negotiate preferential rates with a local or national gym provider to offer free or subsidised gym membership as an employee benefit, typically on a salary sacrifice basis. Discounts can be between 20% to 30%, and some of the best deals can be found when a new gym opens and is keen to fill places quickly.

In the Autumn Statement 2016, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the range of benefits that attract tax and employer national insurance (NI) advantages when offered through a salary sacrifice arrangement will be limited from April 2017. This includes gym memberships. Arrangements in place before April 2017 will be protected until April 2018.

The most significant trend in the fitness market has been growth in the budget gym sector, led by brands such as Gym Group and Pure Gym. What these lack in luxury pools, saunas, and wall-to-wall television screens offered by the high-end gym chains, they make up for in flexibility and affordability. Fees can be less than £10 per month, with pay-as-you-go membership, and in some cases, no joining fee.

Choosing the right provider and gym is important to boosting staff take-up of the benefit. First-time gym users can find the experience daunting, so a facility that offers trial sessions, personal fitness programmes, and opportunities to work with an instructor or personal trainer on a one-to-one basis can feel less intimidating to a newcomer.

Another option, one that offers greater choice for employees, is to work with a third-party gym membership provider, such as Incorpore, which can tap into a network of 3,038 health clubs, including leading gym chains, leisure centres, hotel health clubs, independent gyms. Employees pay directly for the gym near to where they live or work at a discounted rate of up to 30%.


  • 22% of employers offer gym memberships through salary sacrifice, either on a voluntary basis or through a flexible benefits scheme. (Source: Employee Benefits/Xerox HR Services, June 2016)
  • 33% cite the offer of gym membership or exercise classes as employee benefits as steps employers could take to help employees maintain a healthy lifestyle at work.
    (Source: Simplyhealth, April 2016)