Hair and beauty salons in lockdown legal fight
All hair salons, beauty therapists and cosmetology studios have been closed since March 27, when the nationwide lockdown was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
According to the regulations, they will only be allowed to reopen when the lockdown risk adjustment is at level 1.
The industry was offered some reprieve on May 1, when the country entered a level 4 lockdown and the regulations were amended to allow salons to sell beauty and hair-related products.
However, salon owners argue that the sales of hair products have not been enough to pay staff and keep businesses afloat.
An online petition by the Employers’ Organisation for Hairdressing, Cosmetology and Beauty (EOHCB) has garnered more than 70 000 signatures. They are appealing to the government to reconsider the level 1 risk adjustment.
In addition, advocate Carlo Viljoen and his team of associates at Victor Online Legal Consultancy are preparing to file papers in the high court on May 19, for an urgent order to allow for the industry to reopen.
Viljoen said they would argue that the financial strain was becoming too hard to bear and could see irreparable damage to the industry.
Speaking on a live video chat on social media, Viljoen said he would try to show the court that hairdressers had a right to life and dignity that an income could provide. He said he was confident their application would be granted.
“Adult clients should enjoy the freedom of choice of whether to go into a salon or not.
“If this (order) is not granted, the industry will suffer irreparable damage affecting the livelihoods of thousands of families should their businesses remain closed under this lockdown,” Viljoen said.
The EOHCB, whose petition would accompany the supporting documents presented to court, said the survival of the industry and the livelihoods of those participating in it was at the mercy of the National Covid-19 Command Centre (NCC).
“Under strictly controlled hygiene and safety measures, including basic Covid-19 prevention actions, our industry will be able to serve the public without compromising efforts in place to combat the spread of and exposure to the virus,” it said.
Jade Delphine Tomé, the hairstylist and industry mogul leading the initiative, said the battle to have salons reopened should be expedited, as many salon owners did not qualify for the government’s unemployment insurance fund (UIF) benefits.
“Most hair stylists and beauticians do not qualify for UIF and have zero relief or support during this shutdown. The EOHCB put an incredible petition together and obtained overwhelming support from the industry and clients.
“However, the government responded to it with a flat-out ‘no’.
“As an industry we have been practising all hygiene and safety protocols throughout our professional careers. This has always been a part of our in-depth training and qualification processes.
“We are required to practise sanitation and hygiene as a standard, and can confirm that this will not change. In fact, we will only get more strict,” Tomé said.
She said every week the lockdown dragged on it was negatively affecting the industry “to the point of no return”.
Pietermaritzburg hairstylist Shantal Benecke, owner of Blu Gel Hair and Beauty Salon, was forced to start a fund to which her loyal clients donated cash to assist her 17 staff members.
Benecke said she applied to the government’s Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) but had not received any response.
“Staff were freaking out and I didn’t know what to do. We started this fund and are so blessed to have amazing clients who donated to the fund. We used the money to purchase groceries for staff,” she said.
Since May 1, Benecke said her salon opened on Tuesdays and Thursdays for clients to pick up hair products that had been pre-ordered.
“I don’t understand what the government is doing. We are as clean as hospitals and clinics, if not cleaner. I hope that the government rethinks allowing us to reopen at level 3, at least,” Benecke said.
A beauty therapist who lives in Morningside, Durban, said she was so desperate for an income that she had resorted to breaking the lockdown regulations and inviting clients to her home for treatment.
“I am an honest businesswoman but I need to put food on the table. I have a baby to feed and this is my only source of income. I hate breaking the law and it scares me, but it scares me even more that I cannot feed my family,” she said.
She said she has implemented a number of protocols such as sanitising her clients’ hands and faces, asking them to remove their shoes and leave them at the door and checking their body temperatures with a thermometer before allowing them inside.
A Durban hairstylist, who also asked not to be named, said she was afraid at first to go to clients’ homes to cut their hair.
“But desperate times call for desperate measures. I know I am risking myself by going to their homes, but what other choice do I have? I have to make an income. I have bills to pay and mouths to feed,” she said.