Hair and beauty industry calls for five client cap to be discarded ahead of state reopening

Photo: spabielenda/Pixabay.com.

By TILEAH DOBSON

As the state begins its plans to open back up by the projected ‘freedom day” of 11 October 2021, many businesses that were once shut, or restricted to click and collect, will return.

However, as most businesses prepare to welcome customers back, the hair and beauty industry is calling for the restrictions on personal services to be reconsidered.

The Australian Hair Council (AHC), Australian Workers’s Union (AWU), Hair Stylists Australia (HAS) and the Aesthetic & Beauty Industry Council (ABIC) have joined together to voice their concerns over certain Covid-safe rules, such as the ‘five clients’ cap.

The roadmap the NSW Government has laid out states that once NSW has reached the 70 percent double vaccination goal, businesses that offer personal services can reopen but under the one person per four square meter rule.

The AWU National Secretary, Daniel Walton, has spoken out about the restrictions, which he says will hinder personal services.

“Our members were among the first forced to close and have been without work for almost 12 weeks. This cap will make it even harder for them to recover from the financial devastation they have already experienced,” Walton said.

“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.”

Currently, businesses must adhere to a Covid-19 Safety Checklist and establish a Covid-19 Safety Plan. This plan sets out the rules that businesses and organisations must follow to fulfil their obligations under public health orders, as a means to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission on their premises.

Personal services such as hair salons will be affected the most by the ‘five client’ restriction. Photo: Pixabay.com.

NSW Health outlines the restrictions, including physical distancing, square meter rules, ventilation and record keeping. AHC Chief Executive Sandy Chong called the restrictions out, claiming they were unreasonable for personal services such as hair and beauty.

“[They] will not help control Covid transmission within hair and beauty venues in any meaningful way. Where a salon or premises is large enough, these venues can safely and effectively operate under the four-square metre rule without the conditional cap of five people,” Chong said.

“These restrictions are also 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.

“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.”

Small Business Party founder and leader, City of Sydney Councillor Angela Vithoulkas, agreed that the restrictions were frustrating, and predicted they would be unviable for many businesses in the hair and beauty sector.

Councillor Angela Vithoulkas is a multi-award-winning business owner who is also the leader and founder of the Small Business Party. Photo: Angela Vithoulkas/Facebook.

“If we ever needed a greater example of the ignorance this NSW Government has on exactly how small business works, this is it,” Vithoulkas said.

“Hair and beauty services are labour intensive and hands-on services often located in high streets and high foot traffic areas – so as far as real estate goes, their rents are some of the highest. The restrictions around staff, around customers per square metre, will be impossible for these small business owners to make work financially; many will be saying, ‘Why bother?’

“Why can’t they consult directly with small business owners and ask them what would work in their business? What’s the point of government making rules up that can’t work, or disrupt even more than the lockdown?”

The Sentinel approached NSW Health for comment and was advised that plans for exiting lockdown were still in development and that they would provide comment in due course.

Tileah Dobson is the news editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

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