It is a new world for the massage therapist, just as it is for many other personal services industries.
App companies are going whole hog into personal service. Rides, house-cleaning, errands, baby-sitters, pet-sitters, and yes, massage therapists. Where is it heading? For a big thumping collision as we struggle to define ourselves, our employers and our clients….
Oh yes, big questions. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Hang on.
Are app companies employers? Are service providers employees or clients? Are clients users or beneficiaries? Who cares? Massage therapists care because the answers to those questions will determine how much money we make, how much we pay in taxes and how free we are to make decisions in our professional lives.
Here’s how it shakes out: Google is an advertising service that provides therapists with a way for people seeking their services to find a provider – and leaves the rest of the transaction up to the therapists and clients.
The app services are vetting providers, setting prices, presentation, times and even setting tips. The amount of control they have means they appear to be employers, not middlemen. If a therapist wants to provide more or charge more, they are not able to.
A therapist is not an independent provider of service when someone else sets the price and pay. If a therapist is not independent, then basic labor laws about employees apply.
The bottom line for therapists is that it is all about control. Control of prices, providers and policies such as tipping makes apps employers. That means the app gets to pay a lot more money in taxes for Social Security, payroll, disability, etc. that would otherwise be paid by the therapists.
There’s been some talk that the new services may yield a new classification of worker – the dependent contractor. That’s where the therapist would be a service provider who would pay less in taxes in exchange for less control. But will the apps pay the taxes? And pay for the benefits? Stay tuned.
In the interim, the people who may be the biggest targets are small businesses who have called their employees independent contractors to avoid higher costs. If the apps can’t have independent contractors, then spas and clinics can’t either. That will make major changes in the way multiple-therapist businesses operate.
Meanwhile, a massage therapist’s best bet remains Google or the other online search providers. People looking for a massage can find you in an efficient way. If they do not want your services, or don’t want to pay your price, they will find someone else who better matches their needs.