Most healthcare practices are heavily regulated in the UK to ensure health, safety and compliance. Such legalities are widely accepted across the industry and are expected by those entering the field for the first time. But, as massage is considered a complementary and alternative medicine, is it regulated to the same extent?
Massage Therapy is relatively unregulated in the UK in comparison to other healthcare practices. However, a minimum qualification of a Level 3 Diploma in a relevant subject is required to practise. If an individual wishes to open a clinic or parlour, a Massage and Special Treatments Licence is legally required.
Read on to learn more about UK massage regulations with Breeze Academy.
What are the Massage Therapy Regulations in the UK?
Compared to other healthcare treatments and therapies, massage is one of the least regulated practices in the UK. But, that isn’t to say that there aren’t any regulations - individuals can’t just set up their own clinic and start charging for massage services.
Below we discuss the variety of regulations and licences that Massage Therapists are subject to (or highly recommended to follow). It’s important for individuals to check which are relevant to them personally, as some are not enforced across the whole industry.
Do I Need a Licence to Massage in the UK?
Individuals legally need a licence to practise massage in a specified location (e.g. a clinic, massage parlour or any permanent location). They must obtain a Massage and Special Treatments Licence from their Local Authority.
A representative will then arrange an inspection of the premises and interview the individual, as well as any employees. It is illegal to practise massage on the premises before this is complete.
This licence covers the premises in which they intend to practise, any massage therapists they hire, and also covers treatments such as manicures, chiropody, sunbeds and other light treatments, and saunas. Separate licences are typically required for any treatments that pierce the skin, such as piercings, tattooing, and acupuncture.
Mobile Massage Therapists
As long as no premises are held, Mobile Massage Therapists are not required to obtain a licence. However, they must, as a minimum, hold a Level 3 qualification in a relevant subject and have trained for at least 200 hours.
To practise as a Massage Therapist, UK massage regulations require a minimum qualification of a Level 3 Diploma in a relevant subject. This, however, does not allow the therapist to practise all elements of Massage Therapy.
A Level 3 qualification covers a range of skills and techniques to cover common concerns, aid athletes with routine massage, recovery from low-level injuries, inflammation, and maintain an optimal musculoskeletal system.
Note that those with only a Level 3 qualification cannot perform more advanced techniques such as soft tissue release, corrective frictions and trigger point massage. They also cannot diagnose clients.
Learn more about Level 3 Massage qualifications with our beginner course.
Level 4 massage qualifications allow individuals to perform more advanced techniques and treat a wider range of conditions. This includes treatment for chronic injuries, positional release, muscle energy techniques, soft tissue release and more.
This more advanced qualification allows individuals to work in clinical environments - most employers ask for a Level 4 qualification as a minimum, as Level 3 qualifications aren’t sufficient to be able to treat all conditions that a clinic will see. Additionally, a key benefit of a Level 4 qualification is the ability to assess clients’ concerns, diagnose, and plan effective treatment.
Learn more about what a Level 4 Massage Therapist can do in our detailed blog.
Whilst not a legal requirement, it is highly recommended that Massage Therapists take out insurance in case something goes wrong. Like with any healthcare practice, insurance is essential in case of malpractice.
Likewise, business insurance or building/contents insurance may also be useful where individuals own a physical clinic.
Health & Safety
Massage Therapists must adhere to the Health and Safety at Work Act. This ensures a high standard of health and safety for both employees and clients. As a healthcare practice, this regulation is of the highest importance.
As part of this regulation, there must always be a trained first aider on site and access to appropriate first aid equipment.
Whilst not necessarily specific to the massage industry, other UK massage regulations to be aware of include:
- Manual Handling
- Data Protection/GDPR
- Supplies of Goods and Services Act
- Consumer Protection Act
How to Become a Massage Therapist in the UK
We’ve slightly touched on some of the requirements to become a Massage Therapist in the UK. Below we go into more detail, explaining the steps that individuals need to take to legally practise as a Massage Therapist.
The minimum requirement to practise massage in the UK is a Level 3 Diploma in a relevant subject. This would ideally be a massage-related subject, but could also be:
These courses provide a good base understanding of the human body before continuing with more specialised and advanced courses.
From here, individuals can legally practise massage, but are limited to more basic techniques. As such, they may struggle to find employment. A Level 4 qualification is recommended. This provides a deeper understanding of anatomy and physiology and allows individuals to practise more advanced techniques. They can also diagnose clients and plan a course of treatment.
Level 5 and 6 qualifications in massage-related subjects also exist, but aren’t really necessary. They typically cover the same topics and techniques as a Level 4 course, just over a longer period of time. Individuals may graduate with more experience, however.
From here, individuals can decide to specialise. Specialties can include:
- Sports massage
- Pregnancy massage
Unlike other healthcare professions, qualified Massage Therapists don’t need to join a governing body. However, many employers will ask for this as a sign of reputability and an ongoing commitment to the profession.
From here, individuals simply need to determine how and where they want to practise. This will determine any other licences and legal requirements as discussed earlier in the article.
Learn more about how to become a Massage Therapist in the UK in our detailed blog.
Massage is relatively unregulated in the UK in comparison to other healthcare practices. However, there are a few regulations and legal requirements to ensure the safety of both client and therapist.
This includes a minimum qualification of a Level 3 Diploma in a relevant subject, a licence from the local authority and the adherence to a number of regulations and legislations.
If you’re interested in becoming a Massage Therapist, learn more in our Sports Massage Training courses. Curated and delivered by expert clinicians, our courses provide you with everything you need to safely and effectively provide massage to clients. If you’re completely new to massage, take a look at our Level 3 course. For those more experienced, our Level 4 course may be more suitable.