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Hairdressers say coronavirus exemption puts them at risk

The hairdressing industry has lashed out at Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accusing the federal government of killing tens of thousands of small businesses slowly by not forcing them to close alongside other beauty services firms.

Morrison raised eyebrows across the nation on Tuesday night when, amid announcing the forced closure of entire industries for the second time in less than a week, he outlined an exemption that would allow hairdressers and barbershops to remain open, provided they keep appointments to 30 minutes or less.

The extraordinary measures, designed to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, have kicked a hornets nest in the industry, with Australian Hairdressing Council chief executive and small business owner Sandy Chong accusing Morrison of consigning firms to financial ruin.

“He’s killing small businesses very very slowly,” Chong tells SmartCompany.

“It will be bloody death at the end.

“Why is he putting our hairdressers and their families at risk to the coronavirus by allowing the public to come into salons?” Chong said.

Chong says the 40,000 workers in the hairdressing industry are being placed at unncessary risk trying to comply with social distancing rules, which are unworkable for the types of services they offer.

Under social distancing guidelines outlined by the Morrison government last week, Australians have been asked to keep a 1.5 metre distance between each other at all times, while businesses must allow four square metres of space between each patron.

Recognising the situation is untenable, many salons have already closed, but Chong says without a government mandated order, business owners risk finding themselves in hot water with Fair Work if they tell staff to go home.

“Doing 30-minute hair cuts is unproductive anyway from a financial point of view — we’re struggling to even cover our costs,” Chong said

“Our hands our tied until he says close.”

This article was first published by Smart Company and has been shared with permission.

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