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Hairstylists retain penalty rates in landmark Fair Work decision

January 13, 2020

In a massive win for Hair Stylists Australia (HSA), the Fair Work Commission has rejected Hair and Beauty Australia’s (HABA) bid to slash penalty rates for hair and beauty workers.

HSA and the AWU, with the support of the SDA, have been fighting the case for two years. HABA pushed for penalty rates to decrease from 200% to 150% for Sundays and 250% to 225% for holidays as part of the four-year review of the Hair and Beauty Award.

HABA argued the requirement for many mall-based salons to open on weekends and public holidays aligned them with the retail and hospitality industries. However, the Fair Work Commission ruled that hair stylists are not comparable to retail workers, and should be considered tradespeople, alongside electricians, plumbers and carpenters. Fair Work also accepted evidence that hair stylists are already underpaid according to their role.

Hair Stylists Australia was formed in 2016 as a national union to represent hair and beauty workers. Since its inception, the organisation has tackled a number of issues, including unpaid wages, workplace disputes, licensing and health and safety standards, and retaining penalty rates.

“It’s already hard enough to attract and keep good staff,” said salon owner and HSA ambassador Vanessa Watt. “Any reduction in penalty rates would have only made this problem worse for small salon owners like myself. The hair and beauty industry is already the lowest paid trade and we need to lift the industry rates to attract and keep good hairstylists, not cut them.”

“The decision of the FWC is a massive relief. A reduction to the current penalty rates would have placed my family even closer to the poverty line and meant more strain on my family life which is already difficult as a single parent,” added Carrie Gedney, HSA Ambassador and a senior stylist from Newcastle.

“Hairstylists are tired of being pushed around and being paid so little,” said AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton.

“Hairdressers undertake an apprenticeship just like electricians, plumbers and carpenters but end up earning far less than these male-dominated trades. This attack was the last straw and they decided to stand up and fight back against this industry race to the bottom. Workers are grateful that the FWC has seen the unfairness in the case presented and decided to protect the conditions of hairstylists in Australia.”

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