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Beauty industry anxiously awaits reopening go-ahead from Government

Last week Government was expected to confirm the post lockdown salon protocols, but this has been delayed, likely due to a High Court’s ruling declaring Level 3 & 4 regulations of the COVID-19 national lockdown invalid and unconstitutional.

The North Gauteng High Court gave Government a two-week grace period in which to review the regulations and republish them, taking into account the Bill of Rights and citizens’ constitutional rights.

Eye Witness News reports that Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, said that Cabinet will appeal the High Court judgment. “We are of the view that another court might come to a different conclusion,” he said.

In the meantime, the beauty industry remains in limbo. In a post on its Facebook page dated 6 June, the EOHCB (Employers Organisation for Hairdressing Cosmetology Beauty) stated: “The EOHCB was looking forward to the relevant department publishing the industry health protocols and guidelines on the afternoon of the 5th of June 2020, which would have led to personal care services being reintroduced under Alert Level 3.

“To the EOHCB`s utter dismay, the department`s self-invoked deadline was not kept. The EOHCB has, as a result, instructed its lawyers to immediately dispatch a letter to the Director-General of the department, calling for a response by close of business Monday, to enable the EOHCB to consider its position going forward.”

On 8 June, The Eusebius McKaiser Show on Radio 702 featured an in-depth interview with two salon owners in Johannesburg, who spoke about how the lockdown has affected both their businesses and employees.

Said the owner of two Sorbet Salons in the north of Johannesburg: “The people element is what gets to me the most about lockdown. I employ 23 people across two salons and they’ve been unable to earn money since lockdown and only eight of them have received the UIF TERS funding. They are amazingly talented people, yet they have no income. Our industry tends to be predominantly female and employs over 90% women, so not being able to earn a living directly affects their broader families.

“At the moment we are not generating income. Although we are now allowed to sell retail in our stores, the moment you open your doors, you are liable for rent and retail sales won’t cover that.”

The salon owner pointed out that what has made the impact of COVID-18 worse is the timing of the pandemic, as January and February are typically a salon’s quietest months of the year, with March normally a particularly strong month. She continued: “The first week of March was great revenue-wise, but then people started worrying about the pandemic and business fell right off, even before lockdown. So it’s been like a double whammy.”

McKaiser also spoke to Felicia Ntisa, who owns two Sorbet nail bars, as well as Sorbet Man in Hyde Park.

Said Ntisa: “I employ 42 individuals, all of whom have had zero income. From my perspective, I have still had to pay insurance, operational and systems costs, and water rental, etc. I’m very emotional about the effect that lockdown is having on my business and staff and I’m not sleeping because I keep thinking, if I am privileged and struggling, how are my staff coping? The best choice has been to pay staff a threshold to keep the wolf from the door. When we come back to work, my staff will have to work in shifts. Like President Cyril Ramaphosa, I tell them, let’s endure, just a bit more and have one objective – to save the stores, as they will benefit in the long term. Our industry won’t be the same for quite a while because of the social distancing, so my income will be halved.”

Ntisa stressed that hygiene protocols have been part of her salons’ DNA all along but will be enhanced when the doors open. She said: “The beauty of being part of a franchise is that it comes with all sorts of regulations. Going forward we will be opening with smaller teams; therapists will wear masks and gloves and frequently sanitise their hands and sterilise equipment. We will do temperature readings of both clients and staff and observe social distancing regulations. So many of my clients have reached out to me to get in touch with therapists as they miss having contact with them.” (Report by Joanna Sterkowicz)

To listen to the podcast click here

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