As of 28 June 2022, the law has changed and Sections 16 to 19 of the Sexual Offence Act 2003 (the Act) state that it is illegal for an adult in a position of trust to be involved in sexual activity with a person who is 16 or 17 years old and who they look after.

Although young people aged 16 and 17 have reached the age of consent for sexual activity according to UK law, they could be vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation in certain situations. This includes sexual activity and manipulation by adults who hold a position of trust, responsibility, or authority in relation to them, and, as a result, have a considerable amount of power and influence on their lives. The law changes have expanded to include adults in a position of trust, where an adult is coaching, teaching, training, supervising or instructing in a sport to a 16 or 17-year-old on a regular basis.

The changes

The changes to the Act include an extension of the positions of trust offences to include where an adult is coaching, teaching, training, supervising or instructing a 16 or 17-year-old in a sport on a regular basis, and where the adult knows that they are coaching, teaching, training, supervising or instructing this individual.

Within the Act, ‘sport’ is defined as any game in which physical skill is the predominant factor, and any form of physical recreation which is also engaged in for the purpose of competition or display.

What is a position of trust?

Someone in a position of trust is a person in a position of authority or responsibility over another person. Those in positions of trust have a considerable amount of power and influence on a young person’s life. For example, a young person may be dependent on their personal trainer, swimming teacher, coach or other adult for their sport and physical activity participation, development or progression.

Does this impact on self employed or lone workers, such as fitness professionals?

As fitness instructing meets the four requirements of setting, activity, regularity and knowledge, fitness instructors are included under this change to legislation.

Next steps

Partners are encouraged to update any relevant working practices to reflect this change.

The Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) have developed two briefing papers that define abuse of positions of trust within a sports and dance context  These outline the updated legislation passed in response to the success of NSPCC’s Close the loophole campaign. Read these briefing papers here.

FAQs about these changes can also be found here.

EMD UK have updated the Code of Conduct for Instructors to reflect this change. EMD UK members can access this in their resource area.

EMD UK members and partners can ask any further questions by contacting

Find more safeguarding information in our dedicated safeguarding resource here.

Watch our safeguarding webinar on YouTube here.