Apprenticeship incentives for bosses and building consumer confidence are top of the APPG’s list
Boost apprenticeship incentives for employers, particularly small and micro businesses – that’s a key demand being made by MPs following an inquiry into the revival of the beauty sector post-pandemic.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing (the APPG) – chaired by Carolyn Harris MP and Judith Cummins MP – has published a Call to Action following concerns from industry leaders that the sector was still struggling to bounce back after the pandemic. The sector – valued pre-pandemic at about £30bn – supported 50,000 businesses and 560,000 jobs (of which about 85 per cent are women).
The Group found many businesses are facing debilitating staff shortages post-Brexit and due to inadequate funding for apprentices. A dip in consumer confidence has meant that 66 per cent of beauty businesses remain either partially or fully reliant on Government support to function.
It also covered how the pandemic has taken a huge toll on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the UK public, and how the sector pays a crucial role in supporting this, taking pressure away from the NHS, and helping to treat long-COVID symptoms. Yet staff shortages and a complete lack of Government recognition hinder the sector from fulfilling these needs.
The APPG highlighted that driven by 18 months of repeated closure, financial hardship and capacity restrictions, there has been a 55 per cent drop in salon apprentices since COVID began. Existing apprentices remain ineligible for the Government’s £3,000 apprenticeship grant for new starters, and support for older apprentices is completely lacking.
“Employers simply cannot afford apprentices with the growing deficit between the limited reliefs/grants on offer and fixed outgoings during closure, rising debt and an inability to generate income. While the APPG supports overall pay increases for sector staff, these must be matched with adequate Government support for beauty and wellbeing businesses to ensure that they can stay afloat after 18 months of hardship,” said the report. A deficit of workers from abroad post-Brexit has also contributed to low practitioner numbers.
Co-chairs of the APPG, Carolyn Harris MP and Judith Cummins MP, said: “We launched this inquiry due to concerns we were hearing from the industry about serious staff shortages, a continued deficit in consumer confidence, and a lack of support for wellbeing services that play an essential role in supporting our overstretched NHS.
“We strongly urge the Government to implement the recommendations in our Call to Action and to ensure that this vital sector, as the beating heart of several UK high streets, can once again become an economic powerhouse and continue to support all of our wellbeing”.
The APPG is also conducting a campaign to help restore consumer confidence in local beauty and wellbeing businesses. It urged the Government to back this and publicly call on Members of Parliament, along with the wider public, to visit a salon or mobile practitioner and support the sector.