Unions in New South Wales are calling for the state government to reconsider caps on customer numbers for hairdressing and beauty services ahead of a planned reopening of those businesses in October.
According to the government’s ‘roadmap to freedom’, five clients will be permitted to visit businesses in NSW offering cosmetic, hairdressing and beauty services (in addition to the one person per four square metres restrictions) once 70% of the state has been fully vaccinated. Government data suggests this will be achieved by next month.
Union representatives for workers in the industries say they have serious concerns about the rule limiting businesses to a cap of five customers, because it will make it harder for them to recover financially.
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said that many of these people had been surviving for nearly 12 weeks with no work, and that they were among the first businesses who were asked to shut their doors under government public health restrictions.
“We are deeply concerned that as an unintended consequence of this rule, many small and medium sized businesses will fail, resulting in thousands of workers left unemployed and ineligible for government financial assistance,” Walton said.
On Monday a joint statement issued by the Australian Hairdressing Council (AHC), the Australian Workers’ Union through Hair Stylists Australia (HSA), and the Aesthetic & Beauty Industry Council (ABIC), argued that small businesses should ‘not be an afterthought’ and suggested the customer cap would serve as a penalty rather than assist businesses owners.
AHC chief executive Sandy Chong argued that it made no sense to enforce a ‘five client per premises’ rule on hairdressers and beauty salons when there were equivalent COVID-19 transmission risks in fitness and hospitality environments, where no similar cap existed. Where business venues were large enough, she urged the state government to permit more customers through the doors.
“These restrictions are completely inconsistent with other industries such as fitness and hospitality, which bear similar, if not greater risks of transmission, and will be able to operate without such a restrictive cap,” Chong said.
“We believe the hair and beauty industry can and should be allowed to operate with one person for each four-square metre, along with sensible precautions including compulsory QR code check-ins, client screenings, cleaning of stations, the use of screens and protective glasses where appropriate as well as the use of masks and gloves for staff for the rest of the year,” she said.
Reika Roberts, the chair and director of ABIC, said that the government policy failed to consider the skill and experience of the sector concerning hygiene and infection control.
“These matters are pressing and important to the survival of the industry which has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID pandemic,” Roberts said.
This article was first published by The Mandarin.