Cut VAT and let us open on December 3, plead beauty bosses forced to take zero-hours jobs

BEFORE we plunged into a second lockdown, women frantically fought to find a hairdresser or get a manicure.

And the experts working in the £28.4billion-a-year industry worked through the night in a bid to earn as much as possible, unsure when they might reopen.

Yet the hairdressing industry had only contributed up to 0.05 per cent to the rate of Covid transmission, according to Sage (The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).

Two weeks on, 39-year-old salon owner Rachel Wyatt has had to embark on a new career as an Amazon delivery driver, just so her family can make ends meet.

The mum of two has had to take on a zero-hours contract with the online giant after her family-run business closed for the second time this year.

Despite the various government bailout schemes, Rachel, and thousands more who work in the beauty industry, say they are not receiving enough help.

While the hospitality industry has had VAT cut to five per cent, salons are still having to pay 20 per cent, despite many being in dire financial straits.

Rachel and her husband Colin, 61, own Wyatt’s Barbers in Plymouth and their 18-year-old daughter Chloe is an apprentice for them. They also have son Brandon, 17.

Rachel says: “As a household, we are down at least £500 each so I am having to do all I can to get extra work in. My husband is high-risk, and we only have one car, which means only one of us can work.

“I need to earn, and quickly. I get paid £13 per hour and only usually get offered three hours each day. It is a first come, first served situation, so I struggle to get more than that.

'WE ARE DUE SUPPORT'

“Usually, every penny of our household income comes from the barber’s.

“My daughter is our apprentice and she is furloughed, but we have stylists who rent our chairs out, who have stopped work. So we are missing out on extra payments which usually help to cover costs.

“We are due support for this second lockdown but, as yet, have not received any.”

Hairdressers’, beauty and nail salons, tattoo parlours, spas and tanning studios will not be able to reopen in England until at least December 3.

Many of the businesses are struggling despite the extensions to the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (furlough) that covers 80 per cent of wages, and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme that covers 80 per cent of profits, up to £7,500.

It is estimated that at least ten per cent of beauty businesses have gone under since the first lockdown, and around one in eight employers have made redundancies.

Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer of trade body the National Hair & Beauty Federation, says: “We do not feel this support is enough.

“The industry has not been able to adapt as others have, such as offering services online, during lockdown.

“We are campaigning with other beauty industry organisations to #ChoptheVAT payable by hair and beauty businesses from 20 per cent to five per cent, matching the support granted to the hospitality sector earlier this year.”

Rachel, who also took up casual employment in the first lockdown, agrees that more needs to be done.

She says: “During the first lockdown, the support just about covered our rent on the shop. We still had our direct debits for phone bills, electricity and broadband.

“I took on work as a carer, earning £9.30 per hour. But with this lockdown lasting just four weeks, I didn’t want to mess clients around, getting to know them and then leaving.

'SECOND LOCKDOWN IS WORSE'

“This second lockdown is worse for us financially, because we just about managed to break even in the time we were allowed to work between August and October. We saw a decrease in customers of 30 per cent. Men started to shave their hair off themselves, and women were buying box colours.

“When we reopened, we had a massive influx of people, and they were queuing down the road but that stopped after a week or two.

“We also had become completely Covid-safe, and spent a lot of money on PPE.

“We were binning a bin bag of gowns a day and paying the additional council waste fee. For all that extra expenditure, and then to close again, is crazy.

“We are entitled to a grant from the council to cover rent but are yet to receive anything.

“The fact the hospitality industry is getting a VAT reduction is a kick in the teeth.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have put in place a wide-ranging package of financial support for business premises forced to close in England, as well as the extended furlough scheme to support employers to pay their staff.”

'Celebs in my salon – now no one'

Single mum Francesca Amber, 35, lives with her daughter Bohemia, four, and six-week-old twins Riva and Laveau in Islington, London.

She co-owns beauty business The N7 Collective near her home.

Francesca, who is currently on maternity leave, says: “Prior to Covid the salon was thriving and even attracted celebrity clients. Now I’ve got nothing.

“I’ve laid off five staff members and I am struggling.

“We received a grant the first time, but that only covered the rent, not even any bills.

“Even between lockdowns, business was not as good because clients had got used to doing their own hair and beauty treatments. I nearly gave up on a business that I have been working eight years to get. We are not even breaking even.

“I am a single mother, with newborn twins as well as my four-year-old.

“I recently borrowed money from my gran to help with the mortgage of my home. I got a self-employed grant, but they work it out over three years and one of those years I was on maternity leave, so it is a lot less. And the grant for the first lockdown took three months to come through.

“I have been spray tanning for eight years now, I’m an expert in it and worked on television shows. I was so proud to have my own business.

“But now I feel like I have backtracked a thousand steps. It has been absolutely awful.

“Now we are closed again, it has taken everything out of me, and my savings.

“You go from me and my daughter having a lovely life to a really bleak situation.”

‘I was thriving, now I'm on benefits’

Single mum Alexandra Reed, 41, has to close her cosmetic and medical tattoo business Brown Game, and now claims benefits.

Alexandra, who lives with son Saul, 12, and daughter Sasha, ten, in Leeds says: “This time last year my business was thriving.

“I was in my fourth year of trading and I had a two to three-month waiting list.

“Now I am on benefits and had to take out a £15,000 loan to cover my costs.

“My studio is attached to my home so I don’t have rent to pay on my work premises.

“However, I do have other costs for the business, like insurance, medical waste and marketing fees.

“I tattoo make-up on to clients including areola [the darkened skin around the nipple] reconstruction after NHS patients have had mastectomies.”

Alexandra added: “I dressed in full PPE to protect my clients, but because of the rules, I have had to close.

“I was able to claim on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme for the first lockdown, but as it went on your last three years of books, when I wasn’t making a good profit, I only came out with a one-off payment of around £900 for three months of furlough.

“I was told by Leeds City Council that I did not qualify for a grant because I work from home. It turns out the payments are discretionary.

“The only option was to claim Universal Credit, which pays around £600 a month.

“When my business could open in August, I worked all hours to cram in as much as I could. I was just breaking even, minus the loan, when we were told to close again.

“The beauty industry has been the hardest hit so why not help us by cutting VAT? The Government’s handling of this beggars belief.”

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