fbpx

Yoga Teacher Union – Analysis

What was the purpose of the questionnaire?

Following on from Norman Blair’s breakthrough article addressing the questionable working standards for yoga teachers across the UK, a group of teachers came together to look at ways of improving these standards and giving voice and support to teachers across the UK.  A questionnaire was created to inquire into and capture the current working conditions and challenges faced to gather information and a better understanding of what these needs are and how best to serve and support teachers going forwards. 

Who responded?

The questionnaire was distributed through various teaching networks, facebook groups and newsletters throughout the UK from October to December 2019.  451 teachers responded to the questionnaire, of which the demographics were:

Age:

Location:

Every region of the UK was represented in the responses, but a large majority (61%) of respondents were from London and the South East.

What are the current working conditions of the respondents?

  • 36% of respondents are full-time teachers; 58% part-time; 6% other.
  • 55% have been teaching for 5 years or less; and 45% have been teaching for 6 years or more.
  • In terms of location, the chart below depicts the percentage of 441 respondents place of work.  This includes significant mentions (ie more than 2).  The top three locations are 1) Yoga Studio (65.5%); 2) Community/Church Halls (49.3%); 3) Private Classes in students’ homes (45%)
  • Average hours worked by respondents:
Average Hours Worked % of Respondents
0 – 5 hours 31
6 – 10 hours 31
11 – 15 hours 26
16 + hours 12
  • 76% of respondents don’t have a contract of employment.  Of the 23.9% that do, 13 respondents stated that the contract was fair and/or felt protective of their rights.  The majority of the remaining respondents felt that the contract was in favour of the venue and felt little to no protection.
  • 38.2% of respondents have experienced disputes with Venues and Management around their working conditions.  Of those that experienced dispute, 68% didn’t feel supported or well-informed on their rights.  Of those that did feel supported legal knowledge, independent research, supportive peers and regular meetings were some of the reasons offered for positive outcomes and resolutions. 

What are the key challenges that teachers in the UK currently face, in accordance with the responses?

Over 60% of respondents specified income as a challenge they face.  Many stating that their income is not sustainable and not reflective of experience, hours worked and additional time and energy put into prepping and planning for class.  This is clearly the most significant and pressing issue for yoga teachers and frequently mentioned in correlation with concerns around wellness (11%), feeling isolated and the pressures to increase and retain class sizes to generate sufficient income (14%). 

“The lack of job security, the lack of equalities and fair processes. A lot of the work depends on manager’s favouritism. Poor working conditions i.e. cold, dirty, sometimes noisy studios etc.”

“Low pay, having to work multiple jobs to pay my bills, therefore having little time to self practise, study or prepare classes and feeling burnt out and broken as a result.”

Fears around market saturation (11%) were often linked to pay not being reflective of experience and there was a calling for regulatory measures to acknowledge this. 

Seeking suitable and reliable venues (15% combined) was mentioned frequently.  This included issues around unaffordable rates, lack of accountability around cancellations, cold and ill-equipped venues, and a lack of availability.

Feelings of isolation and a lack of support had the third highest mention rate (13%), followed closely by concerns over the absence of sick and holiday pay (12%).  A number of respondents mentioned that their lack of understanding around employment law and workers’ rights was a barrier.

Is there a calling for a Union/Supportive Collective amongst the respondents?

60.9 % of respondents would like to become a member of a Yoga Teacher Union. 

What are the main areas of support that have been requested from respondents who are in favour, or undecided of a Union?

The four key areas of support requested by respondents were:

  1. Establishing fair rates of pay.  Once again the concerns over unsustainable pay was the most prevalent category in terms of a calling for Union support.  This was frequently correlated with a need for pay to reflect experience and qualifications.  
  2. Providing a sense of community and support.  Many respondents referred to feelings of isolation and that a collective voice would be beneficial in terms of establishing better ways of working, fairer rates of pay and feeling a sense of connection by being a part of a something. 
  3. Offer guidance around rights etc.  Many respondents felt that information and shared materials around employment rights would be beneficial in terms of more effective negotiations with management and venues.  Standardised terms and conditions were also suggested as a means of establishing fairer more balanced working relationships between teachers and venues/employers.
  4. Creating best practice guidelines.  This was considered useful for both teachers and venues as a means of establishing a benchmark for suitable, fairer and mutually beneficial working conditions.

Of the 35.3% of respondents who were undecided, the most predominant reason for feeling unsure that a union could help was lack of clarity about what a union could offer to self-employed teachers.  Fears of a union creating division were also raised amongst a small percentage of this segment.

The effectiveness of unions for dancers and musicians were mentioned in support of the creation of a union for yoga teachers, and a number of respondents who don’t feel like they need union support personally mentioned a willingness to support and participate for the benefit of others. 

What are the next steps?

  • Join the Yoga Teacher Union UK newsletter mailing list.  To subscribe please email: yogateachersunion@gmail.com
  • Distribution of findings and key learnings from questionnaire  via newsletter, social media groups and local teaching communities.
  • Make contact with other Union representatives to discuss formation and offer clarity about what the potential is, particularly for self-employed teachers.
  • Create and distribute a Fair Pay one-pager
  • Create best practice guidelines for distribution
  • Continue to evaluate the data to provide more in-depth analysis
  • Shareable pdf document can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hvMNZdaWBOKczfsTtWR8HNuE0VGeujpO/view?usp=sharing