'Shut it down': Hairdressers call on PM to close salons amid coronavirus

Gillian Wolski
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

“Shut it down.”

That’s the message one hairdresser has for Scott Morrison following his decision to allow hair salons and barbers to remain open amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Jaimi, a hairdresser who works in a salon in North Sydney, tells Yahoo Lifestyle the Prime Minister needs to ‘rip off the bandaid’ and order hairdressers and barbers to shut up shop for good.

“You’ve shut beauty salons to stop the spread [of COVID-19] between client and operator but you don’t have the same regard for a hairdresser or a barber?” she says.

'Shut it down': Hairdressers call on PM to close salons amid coronavirus. Photo: Getty Images.

Making the cut

Indeed, in an announcement earlier this week, beauty salons and similar businesses such as massage and tattoo parlours were declared ‘non-essential’ by the PM and ordered to close.

Hair salons and barbers, however, were included on the ‘essential’ list along with banks, health and government services, meaning they were allowed to continue trading.

But it isn’t business as usual, with salons forced to adhere to strict social distancing measures including ‘minimising personal contact’ and maintaining a four square metre distance limit on clients.

'Shut it down': Hairdressers call on PM to close salons amid coronavirus. Photo: Getty Images.

And, for a brief 48 hours, hairdressers were given a time limit of 30 minutes to work on each client. The rule was lifted on Thursday morning, but many in the industry did not see it as a reprieve.

“This decision is bonkers,” Just Cuts Founder and CEO Denis McFadden said in a statement obtained by Yahoo Lifestyle shortly after the 30-minute rule was abolished.

“It is physically impossible for stylists to do a shampoo or haircut without touching the client. It’s physically impossible for stylists to do their job and keep the 4sqm [rule]...” he added.

Why do hairdressers and barbers want to close?

Like Jaimi, Denis is pleading for salons to be ordered to close even though it appears to go against his own interests.

“Hairdressing is not an essential service. Of course, I would prefer this wasn’t happening at all, and calling for the sector to be shut down might seem counterproductive but it simply must happen in the interests of people’s health,” he said.

As a former salon owner herself, Jaimi can sympathise with the devastating position Mr Morrison’s decision has put Denis and other owners in.

“It’s hard when you need to put food on the table for your family so you stay open because you’re told ‘yes you can,’ but probably the right thing to do would be to voluntarily close,” she says.

Just Cuts salons had remained open for business amid coronavirus until Friday, March 27. Photo: Instagram/justcutsrandwick.

On Friday, Just Cuts announced it had decided to shut down for ‘at least the next four weeks’.

Tough choices

But owners who ‘do the right thing’ in choosing to close will forfeit the government support - such as the jobseeker payment and the coronavirus supplement - afforded to sole traders and their staff that are forced to shutter.

“Without hairdressing being on the shut-down list, it is incredibly difficult for our franchise owners to take the heartbreaking but necessary steps to stand down workers so they can access available support or call for breathing space on leases,” Denis explained.

Jaimi, who sold her Northern Beaches salon last August, reveals how she persuaded the new owner to stay open in the hopes that, if salons are forced to close in future, she can access financial support.

“I talked her off a cliff. I said ‘Don’t close voluntarily because if you choose to do that, you aren’t eligible for any government subsidies that come with a forced closure’,” she explains.

Staying open

For those owners who bravely remain open, the ‘physically impossible’ social distancing rule, rigorous cleaning and customer limits make it hardly worth it.

Jaimi estimates that on a normal day a stylist might serve 10 clients. Post COVID-19 measures, that’s dropped to three or four.

That’s if clients even show up, of course.

Jaimi, who typically works for half a day on Saturday and one weeknight per week, doesn’t have a huge customer base to begin with and is feeling the pinch.

“I’ve had three people pull out so far, they’re just not taking the risk,” she says, despite the salon being ‘more sanitised than a hospital’.

Salon owners face a tough decision to remain open or voluntarily close. Photo: Getty Images.

Uncertain future

Like many others in the hairdressing industry - and outside of it - Jaimi’s financial future is uncertain. On top of her reduced income, her husband has also recently copped a 20 per cent salary cut last week due to COVID-19.

The couple is considering applying for Centrelink’s Newstart (now called the jobseeker payment) to support them and their two kids under two but Jaimi’s feelings are mixed.

“You kinda feel a bit guilty but then you think, I’ve paid taxes all my life, I should be able to get some help. We have a mortgage and need to feed two kids,” she explains.

So, when will Jaimi stop soldiering on and throw in the towel at the salon?

“If the infection rate continues to rise like it is, probably by next week,” she says.

Got a story tip or just want to get in touch? Email us at lifestyle.tips@verizonmedia.com