An open letter to the State Premiers and members of the National Cabinet from the Australian Hairdressing Council.

Dear Ministers, 

The Australian Hairdressing Council represents all stakeholders in the hairdressing industry.

Over the past few weeks our industry has been waiting for the Government directive for our industry to close. I now put you all on notice to consider the safety of hairdressers and barbers from being exposed to COVID-19.

The greatest factor in the spread of COVID-19 is proximity. People gathering in the one place, either in groups or in succession, touching surfaces, touching their faces, using the same facilities. For this reason, every non-essential service that required proximity has been closed, with the exception of hairdressing and barbering.

I ask you all, is vanity more important than safety? The fact is no one will die if their hair doesn’t get cut for a few weeks or months. But people can die from being exposed to this virus, and that can happen right now at the hairdressers. Are you prepared to be accountable when this happens?

There are 15,000 salon shop fronts in Australia employing 40,000 hairdressers and barbers. Half of these have taken the ethical decision to close. That leaves approximately 7,500 salons servicing between 50 – 300 clients per week. NONE of these businesses have been trained in infection control. Many of these salons will be using a freestyle attitude towards hygiene. Some are strictly following safety protocols. As well as these shopfronts there are another 30,000 home operators. Some will be legitimate home salons or mobile hairdressers; others will be ‘kitchen operators’.

We are at risk from, and we are a risk to, our clients. Our continued operation places our staff at risk and our businesses at risk should there be an outbreak traced to a hairdresser.

We require clariy. The mixed messages, different State approaches, directing 30-minute haircuts then backflipping to business as usual, demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the basic operations of our industry. It has created anxiety and uncertainty in an already fear-fuelled situation, which was completely avoidable. Leadership is needed now.

Give our industry the directive to close until it is safe for ALL businesses to reopen.

Some clients are staying away, and some are business as usual. Some people care about their health and some don’t. We have many young staff that may not be as motivated or concerned about the risk to their health. Other staff feel bullied to be at work, and some staff simply refuse to work. Some staff are feeling vulnerable and anxious due to their own health concerns. Combined, not only do we have a stressed industry, but these factors make hairdressers a risk too big to manage. Those that do decide to close are faced with competitors who chose to stay open, taking market share. Those that do close, means more people going to less salons, again increasing proximity and risk. 

The confusion, anxiety and stress caused by this is enormous on the mental health and wellbeing of business owners and their staff.

An averaged sized hairdressing salon is 80 square metres. That means legally we can have 20 people in a salon at one time. This is a ‘gathering’, clearly illegal everywhere else but at the hairdresser. This isn’t the right thing to do, however in our industry, the lack of clear directives has caused confusion and anxiety, and many are finding it tough to know exactly what to do.

This is where a clear direction, leadership and safety over vanity would assist. CLOSE US DOWN. The current situation, of uncertainty and lack of clarity, and risk is worse than being closed. 

Closed, we will be in the same situation as many other Australian businesses. We can pick up the Government support and hibernate for the safety of our staff and the community. Bad hair days will increase, but lives will be saved.

We are well aware that certain members of the National Cabinet enjoy weekly blowdries. Sometimes the right decisions aren’t the most popular. Our industry needs a Government directive to close until further notice.

This is a link to a petition with almost 44,000 signatures requesting the Chief Medical Officer considers our safety over vanity.

Once again, we ask you give our industry the directive to close until it is safe for ALL businesses to reopen.

Yours sincerely,

Sandy Chong

CEO, Australian Hairdressing Council