Updated: Jul 2, 2020
On the 23rd March 2020 the words 'lockdown' although never uttered by our Prime Minister, closed the doors of our industry indefinitely. Overnight hundreds of thousands of business owners went to bed with fear of what was to come. With no time scales to aim for, the future weeks were bleak and filled with worry. But yet we had hope. Hope that this would soon be over, hope that we can return back to earning money, and hope of help from our government. Financial aid was indeed welcomed. For many it meant bills could be paid, food could be put on their table. Many had to fight to try and earn entitlement to help, help which has still never arrived. Many hundreds of thousands of people left with debts and still no idea of when an income will return. The thousands of people working mobile, those working from home and others renting chairs or rooms from other businesses, fell through the net for grant payments. Those that received grants, for many it barely covered 6 weeks of bills. The Self Employment Grant was held off until June, after months of no income, yet for many with new businesses, or those with limited companies they were all left behind. We rejoiced at the offer of a business loan, available to all businesses regardless of credit worthiness, regardless of time trading, and yet for many, the banks made their own terms and systematically refused new business accounts and blacklisted customers. Those few lucky enough to receive a loan, will be straddled with debt for many years to come. Many of us banked with building societies or from current accounts, as allowed by law, as a sole trader. We were left behind. Our VAT bills and Tax demands still rolled in, our ongoing costs for rent, insurance, machine hire, staff, utilities and online services still wanted payment. Our home bills still had to be paid. We still had to put food on the table.
An industry mocked often, we are the silly women that just paint nails, right? No one has thought to see the industry for what we truly are. Who we truly are! We are not uneducated, we are not dumb! We chose this industry because it instills everything in a job that we as women need! Some of us found this industry straight after school, yet the training and education we go through is equivalent to an under graduate degree. Many people in our industry hold university degrees. They have left other industries, from accounting to law and nursing to psychology. WE ARE EDUCATED!!
"I am an aesthetic practitioner of 6 years. I have a large client base & work from multiple salons across the north west. Every one of the salons I work from have been given a £10,000 grant, yet I have received nothing. I have had to sign on to universal credit to support my 3 children, something I have never had to do before & this doesn’t even cover my basic bills, let alone the food I need to provide the children who are home constantly. I have followed the guidelines and adhered to the rules with absolutely no support from the council nor the government. I have seen other aesthetic practitioners working, a local clinic to me is open with no retribution- I have seen my clients attending these clinics which is heartbreaking to learn I am losing clients to these rogue clinics yet I still followed the guidelines in hope I could open July 4th. I always follow strict PPE guidelines even before the COVID outbreak & to learn I can’t return to work, yet pubs are opening is truly disheartening. My profession is one of the cleanest and sterile around & I always work from being stood behind my clients. I can’t fathom why my business and livelihood is less important than that of a shop owners who have been supported with grants. I am now in debt with poor mental health having received no support at all". – Charlotte Clifton
These women you mock so openly are your mothers, your wives, your sisters. We are raising the next generation of adults. We are teaching them to be citizens of this country, to work hard, to earn money for our government. We look after our elderly relatives, we look after the family home and we go out and we work. We work to provide for our family, we work flexible hours so we can raise our children, we are able to work less hours so we can maintain our home. The solution to visit DWP and gain other employment is a shock to those that have dedicated our lives to this industry. Are the government going to pay to retrain us so that we can gain new skills for other employment? Are there even the jobs available? Can we get a job that allows us the same flexibility we have now? Can we have school holidays off? Can we take days off when our child is sick? Can we take our children to work? Can we work around the school hours and earn the same money we did before? Are you going to raise Universal Credits to a humane amount that allows us to provide the lifestyle we had before? I guess not! See these silly women you mock so much, created an industry for ourselves. An industry that allows us the flexibility we need to allow us to do the other jobs assigned to us as women. We created an industry that allows us to not have to rely on benefits to live. We created an industry that is a safe place for other women. Shall I explain?
Our industry is viewed as one of vanity, unimportance, narcissism. You forget what we really do. We are the councillors that you have taken away from the NHS. We comfort women through divorce, domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, problems with children, home life, jobs, relationships with friends and family. We are a non-judgemental place, a neutral ground, a place where someone can remove the weight from their over-burdened shoulders. We cheer on those that need support, we listen to those broken with no-one else to turn to, we shelter many from harm.
You view us a vanity led profession, but is it vanity to trim the nails of the elderly that walk through our doors? Those we often never charge, to relive their pain, a service our government removed from the list of duties of nurses in the community. Is it vanity to help the women with excess hair growth from health conditions, which is no longer a service on the NHS in many areas. Is it vanity that we tattoo areola's on women that have had full breast reconstruction from cancer? Is it vanity that we are trained to detect skin cancer and have saved many lives due to early detection from us referring these clients to the NHS? Is it vanity for the thousands of women with arthritis, rheumatism, fibromyalgia and other underlying conditions to have a massage to relieve their symptoms? Again avoiding using NHS services, which many are unable to access anyway! Maybe you deem it vanity that women have their eyelashes done, or use botox and fillers. Maybe you mock us for nails, the spray tans, the hair removal. For many of us this is therapy, this is our way of controlling aspects of our lives, a way to deal with depression or anxiety. It lifts us up in every possible way, for many it may be the only human contact we get. But yet you mock us still.
To say the pandemic has effected my businesses worse than anyone else would be insensitive and naive of me. But the situation has put a massive strain on my business. I employ 3 staff and work from a log cabin working from my garden. My log cabin cost me 2 loans worth that I am still paying for now. My insurance, accreditation’s, machine rental all of these responsibilities and more have had to carry on, with zero income. I have paid my staff 100% wage all the way through as they too have a home and children and some are single parents. Due to me being in a property that did not qualify for rates or receive business rates relief I did not qualify for the £10-25,000 grant. I also did not qualify for benefits as fortunately my husband has still worked, however I am the main income provider and my husbands wages have not covered our bills. This has put a huge strain on our financial report. I am now at the end of the 3 month holidays on personal finances and loans. All of these will now need paying. I am the director of my business so I did not qualify for furlough myself. Directors have been missed completely in this situation. I have never felt such desperation and fear for my home and finances, my business and my staffs jobs. I just do not know how we will now keep our heads above already very deep water with no prospect or indication on when we may return. Vicki Evans- Cheshire Skin Logic
Our job is more than a job to us. It is the very air we breathe and the one thing that gets us out of bed in the morning. Gone are the days of sitting on doorsteps in the street talking to our neighbours. The salons are now the hub of the communities, they are the essential businesses that offer essential services for many. We work 20-60 hour weeks, even on days off we still go on training courses, read blogs or watch educational videos or talk with other professionals in forums. Our work is in our blood, we never switch off and for many of us this is what we love. This is more than just a job! We are categorised as less hygienic as physiotherapists, opticians and hairdressers. There is simply no logic to the decisions made. The people (men) that have made these decisions have never visited the service industries and seen what we can do to reduce risk and provide a safe place for all. For many treatments both client and therapist can wear a mask. We can work at 1 metre, we can work to the side or behind the client, we can sterilise between treatments. We are taught this on every single course we ever go on. The fact MP's, local councils, insurers, trading bodies and many others have questioned this decision, our Prime Minister still won't give us answers. He mocks us, he mocks the very people he should be representing, the people that put him in power. These same people will use their vote elsewhere at the next election. Boris - this is a war on women! There are of course some amazing men in this industry too, also forgotten and also struggling. I mean not to ignore them in this blog as such, but lets answer an honest question. If this industry was ran mostly by men, would we have been given the green light to open already? Is it really a mans world? I know some may think that this is ridiculous. That we have come ever so far with women's rights that we are now equals? But we are not. You only have to listen to the reactions of the men in parliament, watch their faces, hear their jeers, they are the men, that think women have no place in the workforce. They are the men that keep women as house wives, as property. They have no respect at all for what we represent. If the same questions were raised over a predominantly male industry, the response would be totally opposite. So despite the years we have had to fight for equal rights at work, equal pay, the rights to work when we marry, the rights to get a loan or home in our name, the rights not to be raped, to not be overlooked for a position we are more than qualified for, the rights to speak out without being deemed mentally unstable (or hormonal) we are still being held back. All we want is a date we can open our doors, a plan in place that means we will not be the first to close because pubs and beaches were responsible for re-infections. We just want our human rights to work. For many of us we can no longer wait, money has gone, anxiety is high and the uncertainty is harming many peoples mental health. Industry professionals, it is time we are no longer mocked. It is time to come together as an industry and as women and say enough is enough. Those that do not support our cause in the industry should be boycotted. Our governing bodies have not fought hard enough to represent the very essence of our industry, many stepping up far too late to the table. Do not vote this government back in. Yes, any government would have made difficult choices, yes some would come worse off than others, but how dare they laugh at us in parliament. That in itself is what should make us rise up! Last weeks decisions brought our industry to its knees, we weeped, our hearts broken. Now we come back stronger, we stand up and we fight like the millions of women before us. We will be heard, we will get the respect our industry deserves. We are more than people think we are. So, so much more! Thanks for reading, please share and please do not give up the fight! Kate I have included links below to the news articles that have supported our plight. Please share this blog to MPs, Lords, Councils, Mayors, Journalists and anyone else to help support our cause.