Boris Johnson announced the government’s reversal of lockdown restrictions lifting on some beauty services today, while professionals claim ‘livelihoods are at stake’
Two weeks ago, the UK government announced that, from August 1, all beauty services would be allowed to return. While hairdressers and nail salons were given the green light to open back up earlier this month, all services which involved the face, such as brow and lash treatments, had continued to be banned.
Earlier today, just a day before restrictions were set to lift, Boris Johnson announced that the government was reversing the decision to ease this latest round of restrictions, postponing reopening by at least two weeks, amid concerns over an increase in coronavirus cases.
This means that beauty professionals who had been set to return to work after months of unemployment and struggle have to yet again wait to hear when they can get back to their jobs and start earning again. It’s a harsh blow to many in the industry, who now have only a day to cancel and reschedule what’s set to have been thousands of appointments.
“Most professionals haven’t worked for four months; this new announcement, which gives therapists less than one day’s notice, will inevitably be financially devastating,” Emily Ewart-Perks, co-founder of Secret Spa, tells Dazed Beauty. Ewart-Perks says that the decision confirms the lack of understanding from those in power. “We are once again left questioning why the beauty industry has been penalised, whereas pubs, barbers and gyms remain open.”
Beauty, a £27.2 billion industry, employs hundreds of thousands of people, around 90 per cent of which are women according to the British Beauty Council. Many, including Labour MP Marsha de Cordova and Millie Kendall, chief executive of the British Beauty Council, pointed out the disparity regarding which industries were allowed to reopen disproportionately affected women negatively. When footage from within the House of Commons earlier this month showed MPs including the prime minister joking and laughing as they flippantly discussed the reopening of beauty salons, the video was circulated with outrage. This criticism was sharpened when it was announced that, while beauty and nail salons were being allowed to reopen, “close-contact” treatments involving the face were still banned including face waxing, eyelash treatments, make-up application and facial treatments. Beard trimming, however, was allowed. This has led to comments about the apparent “gendered impact”.
“Covid has already had a deeply gendered impact, with women making up 70 per cent of frontline healthcare workers, the vast majority of those working in informal jobs likely to lose livelihoods, and shouldering disproportionate unpaid care work,” says Claire Barnett, executive director of UN Women UK. “A continued lack of ability for these beauty professionals to return to work will not only be economically damaging – it would endanger the incomes and livelihoods of the predominantly female workforce, and show a lack of gendered and cultural nuance.”
With continued uncertainty around when the industry will be allowed to return, the already overwhelming risk of out-of-business rates and job losses faces a large increase. The industry is “in crisis”, Giorgia Rossi, chief operating officer at Treatwell, tells Dazed Beauty. Almost 10,000 ‘close-contact’ appointments booked on Treatwell from August 1 have now needed to be cancelled, according to Rossi, meaning that “our salon partners will be losing upwards of £250,000 in earnings in the first week alone. Bear in mind this is an industry that employs close to 1 in 60 Brits,” Rossi adds.
In response to the lacklustre efforts of the government towards the beauty industry, Sharmadean Reid, MBE, founder of WAH nails and BeautyStack, launched the #BringBeautyBack campaign earlier this month. Aiming to put pressure on the government to reopen the industry in its entirety, the campaign highlighted voices from the community, giving a platform to those who were out of work and struggling, who felt ignored, left behind and insulted by the government’s attitude.
Reid says she is appalled by this latest decision. “Just when we thought we could begin rebuilding our industry, we are now being denied a huge portion of it,” she says. “Just when people thought they could begin rebuilding their lives, businesses and the economy, to now have this stripped again is just heartbreaking for so many Beauty Pros. There is an entire economy of women currently unable to work, which will ultimately result in businesses closing and the high street being decimated.”
“I know I spoke on behalf of a lot of people, but we are deeply frustrated and feel that this decision was deeply inconsiderate.”
Strict guidelines were given by the National Hair and Beauty Federation and the British Beauty Council, including the use of PPE in place to keep beauty professionals safe. While pubs and restaurants remain open, the message the government is sending around about what and what isn’t safe remains unclear and confusing, according to the professionals Dazed Beauty speaks to. “If only those wanting to do treatments or celebrate Eid could do it down the pub,” tweeted Caroline Hirons, skincare expert, aesthetician and author.
“It’s extremely cruel to leave people hanging in this way,” says Ewart-Perks. “Livelihoods are at stake. We need it to be fairer.”