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My View From Here

By Ralph Stephens, BS, LMT, NCTMB

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Change is the Only Constant

The Federation of State massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), still refuses to provide necessary information and support materials on its MBLEx licensing exam to applicants and schools while sitting on a cash reserve of more than $5 million and awarding its executive director an average pay raise of 18%. (For more details on this, see my previous column in the September 2015 issue.) If that weren't bad enough, FSMTB is now considering taking over the continuing education market and requiring licensees to take their CE Hours through its own "Regulatory Education and Competence Hub – or REACH." They will be announcing the details on this program later this Fall. Stand by – Massage Today will keep you informed on the latest.

Educational Changes

Major shake-ups have gone on in the education sector of massage of late which could have profound implications for the profession at large. With the change of Department of Education rules regarding student aid and crackdowns on unscrupulous marketing tactics by State Attorney Generals, lots of massage schools have closed suddenly. While some questionable players have been eliminated (good riddance), it comes at a time when the demand for therapists is up and the number of students in school nationally is down.

Suppose there is some Karma operating here? Too many schools marketed dishonestly, misrepresenting the realities of the profession for too long. Further, they chose to market to the lower academic and economic strata of high schools, offering "free school" via loans, unrealistic compensation for a quick and easy training, and not screening for applicants' abilities to do the work, mentally or physically. The word is out and the honest reality of our profession, which is rapidly becoming a trade, is not all that attractive: $15,000 in debt to make $12 per hour isn't very lucrative. Who should we be recruiting and what should we be promising? I don't think we can continue to lure young people with the promises of easy, big bucks and then place them as slave labor employees much longer. Our profession could face a traumatic downsizing. We are already way short of filling the demand for therapists. On the plus side, such a supply and demand difference could bring up pay scales, especially for those more accomplished therapists who invest in advanced skills through continuing education.

tax return - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark We will never be honest in advertising quality education until we establish standards for massage instructors. The days of Master Therapists becoming instructors are over. There just are not enough of them to staff all our schools. Further, a great mechanic does not necessarily make a good shop foreman and likewise, a great therapist does not necessarily make a good instructor. Excellent teacher standards have been developed and published by the AFMTE. This is the time to adopt and implement them.

In Steps the IRS

New rulings from the IRS have changed the guidelines to determine the difference between an employee and an independent contractor. This is going to shake up a lot of therapists' work arrangements. The new rulings make it very difficult to be an independent contractor. If that is your declared status, you'd better check with your accountant or attorney. You might not be in much trouble, but the "employer/contractor" can be in deep do-do if all, or even part, of their staff - who they thought to be working as independent contractors - are suddenly declared "employees" and the business now declared "employer." The business owner will suddenly owe however many years of back employment withholdings, workman's comp, social security, etc., plus fines and interest. Don't mess with the IRS; be sure you have your "ducks in a row." Get professional advice.

Along comes the NLRB

In a very recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the parent company of a franchise can now be considered the employer of the people working at an individual, independent franchise. This totally shakes up the franchise model. If this ruling stands (it will likely be appealed and wind up in the courts, tying it up for years, but it might not be appealed), it means that the "Mother Company" of a franchise - the "Corporate Office" - is now the employer of the staff working at each independently owned and operated franchise location. This is a huge game changer in the franchise world and it will be interesting to see the outcome. It was lobbied for by Labor Unions who hope it aids them in unionizing franchises. While it could be good for unions, it also could be the death knell to franchise operations. Franchising allows independent business people to open a brand-recognized business and operate it independently within a set of guidelines defined by the parent company. The local owner determines employment decisions, staffing, wages, etc. This ruling will take away much of the local owners ability to make staffing decisions and shift a lot of potential liability to the parent company. This will mess with the profitability of franchise operations. Of course, the smaller franchises will be harmed most. It could make franchising no longer a feasible or profitable business model.

Point being, we have lots of therapists working in franchises and lots of the public being provided massage through this business model. It will be interesting to see how this ruling will affect our profession. It appears that everyone working at a franchise will become an employee. Independent contracting for a franchise will likely be disallowed. Your employer or franchise may not stay in business. Some analysts are predicting the end of the franchise business model if this ruling is enforced and upheld in courts. Only change is constant.

Therapy Tip

Don't forget the pork. Actually the hamstrings - a little food humor there. Got your attention though, didn't it? In my work with Neural Reset Therapy (NRT), I have gained a new appreciation as to just how important the hamstring muscles are to a variety of pain syndromes. Now that I can normalize hamstring tonus and hip flexion in two or three minutes with NRT, I do so on almost every patient and find it speeds and improves the results I get for most posterior complaints. Even if you do not yet know NRT, spend some time on the hamstrings, even though they might not be the patient's area of complaint, and see if you then get improved results with the main complaint.

Happy Holidaze to everyone! Remember there is a reason for this season besides gift certificates. Try to catch some of the Spirit and share It. Thanks for reading Massage Today and my bi-monthly columns. I am so grateful for your support. See you back here in January to kick off the New Year!

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