Hairdressers Going Mobile Post-Covid, New Study Finds

Hairdressers and beauty therapists have been converting garages and going mobile as they adapt to a post-pandemic world, a new study has found

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The report, Self-Employment in the Personal Care Sector, is the first of its kind for the hair and beauty industry. The findings demonstrate that self-employment continues to thrive despite the difficulties that many in the sector suffered during the pandemic-imposed restrictions – an estimated 18% of hair and beauty workers were illegible for self-employment government support.

Self-employed workers account for almost two-thirds of all workers in the hair and beauty industry and 62% choose to do so because of “career autonomy”, while family life balance is also a major motive. More than 80% of those surveyed said they would continue to work for themselves, with three-in-five workers earning more than they did when they were employed.

The British beauty sector employs more than 600,000 people, of which more than 80 per cent are women. At £30bn, the beauty industry contributes more to the UK economy than pubs, which contribute £23bn a year.

* The survey, by the British Beauty Council, British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology, UK Spa Association and the National Hair and Beauty Federation showed that 60% of freelancers have a recognised qualification from an Ofqual-regulated awarding organisation. Just under 40 % said that their training consisted of unregulated short courses or manufacturer-led courses. 

Victoria Brownlie, chief policy officer, British Beauty Council, said: “The survey findings make it clear that self-employment within the personal care sector is a trend that is here to stay. The freedom and autonomy that working in this way gives to practitioners, who are predominantly women, to balance their careers and other commitments such as family is impossible to ignore.

“However, as self-employment grows, it is likely that practical learning opportunities in salons will decline, creating a worrying skills gap. This represents a new challenge to maintain the visibility, standards and level of service our sector needs to continue building its reputation with policymakers and wider society. Adequate skills, training and insurance and operating legitimately are essential to this.”

Key findings of the report

  • up to 30% of self-employed workers have changed way of working since first lockdown
  • 40% of self-employed practitioners have ‘home salons’ 
  • 60% of people working in the hair and beauty sector are self-employed
  • 32% have converted a space at home solely for work
  • 59% earn more freelancing than they did when they were employed
  • 82% of self-employed workers in the sector expect to stay working for themselves
  • 39% of freelancers’ training is from unregulated short courses or manufacturer training
  • 96% of self-employed workers in the industry had public liability insurance in place
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* The survey, commissioned by the British Beauty Council, British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology, UK Spa Association and the National Hair and Beauty Federation, was carried out in July 2021. It gathered 1,809 views from within hair and beauty sector, across all areas including England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Some 84% of respondents have worked in the industry for five or more years – more than three-quarters of respondents had been self-employed since before the pandemic. 


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