Campaign for compulsory barber and hairdresser licensing

Barbers across the UK are calling for greater regulation of barbers and hairdressers, at a time when Parliament is considering cutting back on Health and Safety ‘red tape’. In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’, Mike Taylor of the British Barbers Association presented the case for greater regulation in the hair profession, citing both economic and safety arguments.

The programme spoke to a London barber, who had been in business for 37 years[1]. The barber complained that, across London, new barber shops and hair salons were springing up on a daily basis, often employing staff who had no qualifications and very little training. These new salons have been offering haircuts at cheaper rates than established barbers, leading to financial difficulties for many older salons who struggle to compete. Mike Taylor said that this is a problem across the UK and argued that this was unfair on qualified and well-trained barbers, whose prices reflect the quality of service offered.

The problem goes beyond that of economic competition, however. There is also the problem of safety to consider. Mike Taylor pointed out that cases of hairdresser’s negligence are rampant across the UK, with established barber shops and hairdressers often having to correct the mistakes made by their less qualified counterparts. Many of these injuries are caused by unqualified individuals in barbershops and hair salons, something which the British Barbers Association wants to rectify.

Although the British Barber’s Association offers its own accreditation scheme, as does the UK Hairdressing Council, these are both currently voluntary schemes, with no mandatory regulation existing for barbers or hairdressers. The BBA argues that the accreditation scheme ‘sorts the wheat from the chaff’ and helps to stamp out any negligent practice[2]. It is also pointed out that licensing is compulsory across the rest of Europe and in the USA. There are, however, currently no current plans to introduce legislation or licensing for barbers.

The BBA is working closely with David Morris, the Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, who used to work as a hairdresser before entering politics. Morris argues that it is ‘dangerous and wrong’ that ‘anybody can just open a hairdresser’s shop and go about cutting and dying people’s hair, using corrosive chemicals without any training or licensing’[3]. Morris tabled a motion in Parliament in 2011 for compulsory registration and licensing to be introduced, a motion that was unfortunately defeated in Parliament[4].

The renewed focus on hair licensing issues comes at an interesting time, when the government is considering cutting back on health and safety legislation in the workplace[5]. Arguing that ‘red tape’ has gotten out of control, the government hopes to significantly reduce the amount of bureaucracy associated with health and safety practices. This would mean that many small businesses, including barbers and hairdressers, would not face as many stringent inspections as in the past. Mike Taylor argued that their campaign was ‘not about red tape, but about big health and safety issues’. In an environment that uses blades and chemicals on a daily basis, greater regulation should be in place to reduce the chances of a serious accident occurring. Licensing barbers and hairdressers would be one step towards solving the problem of hairdresser’s negligence.

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