Government confirms decision following employer feedback

The hairdressing industry is always shifting, and it’s no different for freelance stylists. Here, Sheila Abrahams, (pictured above), founder of the Freelance Hairdressers Association, spotlights the pain points for freelancers right now and offers words of advice and support.Mislabelling freelancers

In the realm of hairdressing, many professionals prefer to be recognised as freelancers or independents rather than “home hairdressers.” Some of us travel to clients’ homes due to various reasons, because they have medical conditions, transportation limitations, are professionals who work from home, or are busy mums and dads who are strapped for time. Other stylists have transformed spaces like rooms, garages, or garden studios into fabulous salons. Freelancers might rent space, use pods or chairs, or even work under major brands and colour houses. Despite this diversity, some still label us as home hairdressers, even though renowned salon names also operate as freelancers for brands. The key distinction is that we don’t employ staff.Brands moving to the high street

Recent discussions centre on brands moving to the high street. We aim to keep our members positive and focused. If you retail products within your business, it’s important not to worry about external developments. Concentrate on honing your skills and knowledge with the trusted brands you use and guide your clients with the best haircare solutions. While clients may seek bargains, they often lack product knowledge and guidance, which can lead to less-than-ideal outcomes.Business independence and disguised employment

It’s crucial to educate our members that their business within a salon or barbershop must remain entirely separate from the umbrella they operate under. Regardless of whether you’re self-employed, a sole trader, or a limited company, you manage your booking system, handle bills via your own till system or card machine and provide your products and equipment. Your prices, hours, and vacation plans should not be dictated by others. If you need legal advice, the FHA offers a legal advice line to assist you.Navigating Covid concerns

COVID-19 has once again become a pressing topic in our community. Questions arise about skin testing after experiencing Covid or receiving the Covid jab, and whether it’s appropriate to request mask-wearing from clients. Given the limited Covid regulations, our advice is to follow your instincts. If you wish to wear a mask, do so. If clients have received a Covid injection, adhere to previous rules of skin testing before applying colour. Given the increasing reports of reactions post-Covid or vaccinations, erring on the side of caution is advisable.Handling booking fees and deposits

An ongoing concern revolves around booking fees or deposits due to the increasing incidence of no-shows and last-minute cancellations. We advise our members to ensure transparency. If you opt to charge a booking fee, it should be clearly communicated in writing and enforced for cancellations within a 24/48-hour window. This policy can be included on your website, in appointment confirmation emails, or text messages, ensuring that clients understand the terms and have a copy for reference in case of earnings loss.The percentage of freelancers in the industry is on the rise, coinciding with more salons unfortunately closing their doors. Social media abounds with newcomers seeking guidance on insurance, groups, and education. The FHA offers bespoke insurance tailored to our ever-growing industry and unparalleled opportunities to collaborate with top brands in colour and styling. We provide hands-on training, bursaries, zoom education, local meetups, and a supportive community through our staff room chat room. While freelancers may work independently, we stand together, offering technical advice and guidance. Our goal is to mentor new freelancers and provide insights into establishing their businesses.

The NHBF has been informed that while there will be a development in technical qualifications against relevant hairdressing standards at Level 3 this area will not be reformed until at least 2027. In the meantime, the Department for Education will continue to fund existing qualifications, which means that learners can continue to be enrolled on to existing provision.  

Caroline Larissey, NHBF chief executive, said: “Following several meetings, where we outlined the concerns of our Members, we are pleased that the Minister has listened and taken on board our recommendations to support our sector, by focusing on a Beauty T Level and no longer introducing a combined Hairdressing, Barbering and Beauty Therapy T Level.”  

“Employers from hair salons and barbershops will always prefer that a prospective employee should enter the sector via a “job ready” route or qualification, such as an apprenticeship or through an equivalent college-based Level 2 qualification.” 

The government says it is taking steps to raise standards and funding for apprenticeships to ensure high quality training provision, working with hair employers to potentially improve assessment for the Level 2 Hair Professional apprenticeship, which, together with the funding uplift, aims to increase quality and completion rates. 

There was a 57 per cent funding uplift for the Level 2 Hairdressing Professional standard (from £7,000 to £11,000) last year, with a 28 per cent funding uplift for the Level 2 Barbering apprenticeship (from £7,000 to £9,000).  

Alongside this, it is also working with employers via the Hair Professional Apprenticeship Steering group, supported by the NHBF, to review the Level 3 Advanced and Creative Hair Professional Occupational Standard and apprenticeship. This review will ensure that the apprenticeship continues to meet employer needs, and supports progression from Level 2, ensuring hair professionals can build lasting careers in the sector. 

The update follows the Secretary of State for Education’s announcement in March 2023 of the decision to delay the delivery of the Hairdressing, Barbering and Beauty Therapy (HBBT) T Level to September 2024. It had originally been slated to start in September 2023.