COVID-19 has changed the dynamic for professional yoga teachers, forcing a dramatic shift in attention to the health and safety of students. The change has forced adaptation like switching to streaming classes online. But what happens when a student in your class tests positive for COVID? If they hold you responsible, do you have any insurance coverage?
Today’s spotlight focuses on the pressing issue of yoga insurance coverage and COVID-19, with emphasis on ways yoga teachers can set up safeguards for their yoga practice.
Do Insurance Companies Cover COVID-19?
Liability policies typically do not cover the transmission of communicable diseases as part of a normal commercial liability policy. This is because coverage like yoga insurance is designed to provide a safeguard against the most common types of losses but there has to be a limit otherwise the insurance company would face unlimited liability.
When a rating agency like Moody’s rates an insurance company, they are providing a grade that in essence rates how likely it is that the insurance company has the financial resources to pay for their policyholder’s claims. A-rating and better means that the company has solid financials and therefore should be more than able to provide the financial support that the insurance policy provides.
If an insurance company doesn’t define the coverage and the limits of the policy, they would have to have a virtually unlimited amount of funds to pay out on all the possible claims they could have. Having yoga insurance stay focused on protecting members from the most likely risks they’ll face in their careers is what helps keep rates affordable and the level of benefits received high.
Why beYogi and other Yoga Insurance Policies do NOT Cover COVID-19 Related Losses
Yoga insurance provides the protection against the most common forms of risks present in the industry today. Breaking each coverage into different types with defined limits helps to spell out exactly what is covered and what isn’t in an insurance policy. This level of specificity is needed to avoid any ambiguity in the contract i.e. the policy. The policy details everything that is covered in a section called the insuring agreement. Other sections can outline the specifics on things like how payments are made, the limits of liability, what’s excluded from the policy, and the definitions used by the company.
When you sign up for insurance, although it can seem tedious, it’s a really good idea to take a minute and run through your policy documents. With beyogi, your insurance application is really easy to do online and only takes a few minutes to fill in the information and check out. As soon as you're through, you’ll have full coverage with immediate access to your benefits plan and policy documents.
Understanding What is Excluded in Your Insurance Policy
Getting to know your yoga insurance policy is a great way to understand everything that the policy can do for you in the event of a covered loss. As well, learning important exclusions, limits, and other information helps you understand the boundaries of the coverage, much like the rules of the game in sports. These rules help define the responsibilities of both parties, how the policy works, and for how long.
What are exclusions in insurance? Exclusions are a listing of those things which are not covered under the terms of the insurance policy. As you’re looking through your policy documents, you’ll want to focus on the exclusions section of the policy. For a homeowner’s policy a common exclusion is damages from floods. Insurance companies don’t do this to be mean, but to better define what their policy covers which helps them set competitive rates for that type of coverage.
For yoga insurance and many other forms of business liability insurance, a common exclusion is the transmission of communicable diseases. Other companies specialize in niche risk categories and create policies just for risks such as the transmission of communicable diseases like COVID-19.
Ways to Help Minimize the Risks of COVID-19 in Your Yoga Practice
During the bizarro-world that has been life in the U.S. during COVID, we’ve written a lot about what to do to protect yourself while still offering constructive and helpful yoga instruction. Some of the top tips we’ve researched and put together for yoga professionals operating in the unique health climate today include:
Make sure you’re in the know with what’s going on in your area.
As the U.S. moves towards reopening, there are many differences between state and municipal orders concerning COVID-19 restrictions. For example, in Florida, Governor DeSantis has moved towards full reopening, while many mayors still have various restrictions in place. If your municipality has a restriction in place that you ignore and a student contracts COVID during your class, there may be grounds for negligence on your part. Negligence is the basis for liability suits and is never something you want to have leveled against you.
The best way to avoid this is simply follow the directives of your local leaders. If in-person classes are capped at a certain number of people, follow it. If you can’t gather at all, use online platforms (beyogi is proud to cover live streaming for yoga professionals). Point is, saying “I wasn’t aware” isn’t an excuse. As a professional, your students are expecting to receive a safe and nurturing environment to grow in their practice. Respecting this trust includes following the COVID safety protocols your region’s leadership has in place.
Have a waiver of liability completed for every student.
You need to have a waiver of liability signed and completed for each and every student. Within the waiver, you should use updated language that specifically spells out the risks for contracting COVID during a class. While there are many templates available for a waiver of liability, it’s still recommended to have an attorney review the document to help customize it to your unique style of teaching. Everyone’s situation is a little different and an attorney can help provide the specifics needed to protect yourself most adequately.
At a minimum, a waiver of liability should describe what the class will be doing, the risks thereof, ask for voluntary participation knowing the risks, and provide a release of liability for the yoga instructor.
Crafting a pertinent sales/membership agreement for today’s environment.
If you’re a yoga teacher today, you should already have a sales or membership agreement in place for the classes you provide. This spells out what is provided and should include simple legal language to help protect the yoga teacher for issues beyond their control. One clause that should be in your agreement concerns force majeure. This clause can be added to an agreement to say that the yoga teacher isn’t responsible for an extraordinary event (like Coronoavirus, ahem) that prevented them from being able to provide the class.
Have updated copies for all agreements.
Even if you already have all of these agreements in place, it’s important to have updated copies that are recently completed. A business lawyer can help craft the language specific to today’s risks and to your practice.
Don’t forget online - terms of service, privacy policies, and disclaimers.
If you are offering yoga services online, it can be difficult to get someone to sign a release of liability but you can help protect yourself with having this legal language present on your website. You can also put links in your videos back to a disclaimer page and even give a verbal disclaimer before you begin. As with other legal documents, there are generic templates for these online but it’s recommended to get an attorney to draft you a current and complete document for your specific situation.
The regulations for COVID-19 and businesses are incredibly fluid. Professional yoga teachers need to be more mindful than ever that the health and safety of students is paramount and today requires additional measures of protection. For a really great resource on teaching yoga and COVID, check out our interview series with the unofficial yoga lawyer, Cory Sterling, of Conscious Counsel.
When to Consider Offering Online Yoga Training
Many yoga teachers have shifted online to be able to still provide access to yoga training, just without the physical contact. Covering online yoga training is something that beYogi offers because we know that yoga instruction is constantly changing and we need to be as flexible as our yogi members.
There are many pros to offering yoga insurance online including:
Not having to rent studio space.
Not being limited to a reduced class size as with in-person classes during COVID.
Having greater flexibility in scheduling.
As more and more yoga teachers move online, it’s important to make sure you’re set up with the proper website legal language, disclaimers, and insurance coverage for this new frontier. Just as important is continuing to provide the level of instruction that keeps your students engaged and eager to continue under your guidance. To learn more about online yoga teaching, see our best tips on providing online yoga classes for advice from the pros still kicking asana in the COVID-world.