Hairdressing and beauty industry call for more government aid amidst Covid-19 pandemic

Hairdressing and beauty industry call for more government aid amidst Covid-19 pandemic

The Hair and Beauty Industry Confederation Ireland has written a letter to the Taoiseach, calling for more government aid amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the latest CSO figures, the industry employs roughly 25,800 people in Ireland in 9,286 salons nationwide.

The organisation said it feels that they have been left behind by the government and they are asking for wider support, as well as clearer instructions on closures.

Currently, the government has not ordered hairdressers and beauty salons to close, although most have shut voluntarily due to the inability to follow social distancing guidelines.

The letter calls for financial grant payments, a reduction in employers' PRSI contributions, a freeze on commercial rents and rates and a reduction of the VAT rate to 9%.

They also want the reinstatement of the Statutory Redundancy Rebate, a review of the apprenticeship payment model, and a one-month wage support grant to salons who rehire staff after the pandemic is over.

Margaret O'Rourke Doherty, CEO of the Hair and Beauty Industry Confederation Ireland, says that so far, the government has not provided clarity on closures. "This has left a lot of businesses to make their own decision, which puts them in a very difficult position.

"Businesses want to be socially responsible, but there is pressure coming from clients who still want to come in and get their hair done, their nails done and get waxed, as crazy as it sounds.

"[Last week], the Taoiseach said it would be counter-productive to close salons, only for people to interact in the same way at home. Just to be very clear, staff won't be able to comply with social distancing at a salon or [by doing treatments] at home."

She also said business interruption insurance is unlikely to cover the cost of Covid-19 closures, and that people should be aware they must inform their insurance providers if their salon is unoccupied for 30 days. "Their policy will be rendered null and void if they do not inform their insurers of this."

David Campbell, President of the Irish Hairdressers Federation, was another signatory of the letter.

He says the hairdressing industry has been hit three times in the space of a few months, and the government needs to step in to ensure its survival.

"The VAT rate was pushed up from 9% to 13.5% in this sector. Two months later, the apprenticeship rates were abolished. This meant an 8-10% wage percentage increase.

"So in the space of three months, hairdressers faced a 10-15% increase in costs.

"Now with Covid-19, we are wondering how will we survive? Especially the smaller salons. Their cash flow from week to week is very important."

Mr Campbell says so far, the government measures to help businesses are only starting to be put into action, and the government has only called out industries such as hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafes. "Hairdressers would employ just as many people as these industries.

"It is a scary situation. If a salon can't afford to pay rent, they will have to negotiate with their landlord. We would hope that all landlords would say 'no problem', but sadly that is not the reality.

"Then we have rates and water charges, and the water charges are estimated yearly, and are not done as you go.

"We've basically been steamrolled over with everything. It's been very difficult for hairdressers to make ends meet. We've basically just been ignored."

He says once the pandemic eases, people should support their local salon.

"This doesn't mean asking your hairdresser to come to your house [during this crisis]. When the salons open back up, go in and support them, they are part of the community."

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