Here we respond point by point to the Sun’s article from 28 October 2012, headlined: “Hairdressers are battling barmy EU plans to outlaw high-heels and jewellery at work”
The “plans” were put forward not by the “barmy EU” but by hairdressers and salon owners from across Europe who have on their own initiative reached an agreement and asked the European Commission to write this into EU law, with rules covering some issues and guidance covering others. The Commission has not yet decided whether to take this forward – if it does, Member States would then need to agree by a large majority or the legislation would not take effect anyway.
The European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology says “Hairdressers suffer from musculoskeletal pains (hands, wrists, leg swellings, etc.) due to long working hours in a standing position. They are also exposed to many chemical agents contained in shampoos, dying agents, creams, sprays, etc. that daily injure their hands or respiratory tracts. As most hairdressers are female workers, the products have also an incidence on pregnancies.”
Stylists could be forced to wear non-slip soles and leave “unhygienic” watches and rings at home.
As some hairdressers responding to the Sun piece pointed out, this is good practice that most follow already. A slip with scissors or a razor in hand could cause serious injury. This is obvious rather than “barmy”.
They also face having to cream and wash their hands several times a day.
Again as hairdressers responding to the Sun piece pointed out, they do this anyway. In the UK this is based on clear guidance from the Health and Safety Executive, which warns “This information will help employers (including the self-employed and franchisees) comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002(COSHH), as amended, to control exposure and protect workers’ health.” http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/guidance/sr11.pdf and http://www.hse.gov.uk/hairdressing/index.htm
Gossip with clients will be compulsory for “mental wellbeing”, while owners must ensure a happy atmosphere to avoid “emotional collapses”.
If there were anything in the salon owners’ and hairdressers’ proposals that said gossip should be compulsory, this might indeed be seen as barmy. But there is not. There is a reference to “social dialogue” – if the Sun had checked this story with us before publication, we could have explained that this term means dialogue between employers and workers over pay and conditions, etc. Neither is there any reference to a happy atmosphere: this appears to be a distortion of a part of the agreement referring to avoiding overloading workers.
Bosses would also have to limit the number of cuts stylists do in a day.
They already do in practice under EU and UK rules and probably would do anyway even if no such rules existed, as most people would probably prefer not to pay good money to have their hair cut by someone who has been on their feet for 12 hours.
European salon chiefs and a stylists’ union persuaded the European Commission to draft a directive to be binding on all 27 states, including Britain.
No, they did not. The Commission has not made a proposal or decided whether or not to do so – that decision will be made on the basis of a full impact assessment. And if the EC does make a proposal, it would become law only if a large majority of national Ministers agree. The European Commission cannot just hand down rules, on hairdressing or anything else.
UK hairdressers say it will cost £75million a year and increase the cost of having a hair-do.
The European hairdressing industry (Coiffure EU) argues that there will be substantial savings if the proposals are implemented – salon owners say that is why they themselves developed and signed up to these rules. Savings come from reduced sick leave of hairdressers and from reduced staff turnover/retraining. According to Dr. Shengli Niu, Senior Occupational Health specialist at the International Labour Organisation, “20% of hair stylists have to leave their jobs because of work-related conditions.”
The cost of occupational skin diseases in loss of productivity across all sectors exceeds €5bn every year in the EU, according to latest calculations. With the hairdressing profession carrying a higher risk than any other line of work.
Eileen Lawson, of the National Hairdressers’ Federation, said: “The EU’s using its largest hammer to hit the smallest nut.
Again, the EU is not proposing this, hairdressers and their employers are….the European Commission has not decided whether to take it forward.
“When money is tight and jobs so important the last thing we need is more expensive bureaucracy.”
Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: “No one has to tell hairdressers the benefits of hand cream or dictate how they dress.
The Health and Safety Executive provides detailed advice on hand care and on appropriate work clothing in the UK…
“Legislation will lead to higher costs and bigger bills for customers.”
The EC will only take the proposal forward if an impact assessment shows benefits outweigh costs and in particular that codifying the agreement in EU law would not hold back small businesses.