Sorbet wants salons, hairdressers and nail bars to reopen in South Africa – under these conditions

The Sorbet group has cautioned that South Africa’s continued lockdown could see the entire grooming sector face bankruptcy – with no clear outline for how and when these businesses can return to work,

Sorbet, which has 220 salons across South Africa, said that the vast majority of its salons are owner-managed, who are dependent on their store profits as their only source of income.

They employ approximately 3,500 persons, the majority of whom are trained as female beauty therapists, nail technicians, hair stylists and barbers, it said.

Their employees are often the sole breadwinners in their families and support many dependants, which is estimated to be a further 20,000 people from disadvantaged communities.

“The closure of the salon industry due to the national lockdown is having a devastating impact on the industry, the salon owners, their employees and dependants,” it said.

“Initial estimates show that 40% of Sorbet salons could face closure should the lockdown restrictions prevent them from returning to trade by 1 June 2020.

“Any further extension of the lockdown beyond this date could see the entire industry face potential bankruptcy. It is therefore imperative that salons are afforded the opportunity to re-open their doors as soon as possible.”

Blocked from reopening

The grooming sector was not among those allowed to return to work under level 4, with Dr Anben Pillay, director general of the Department of Health, singling out services where there is direct contact as being a serious risk of transmission.

“Hairstylists, massages, nails, as well as those who are beauticians etc, there is very close contact, and personal contact with each other…and so the risk of transmission is much higher. So clearly those services are prohibited for that reason,” he said.

However, Sorbet said it would be possible for the sector to reopen if protocols are in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Further to its already existing stringent hygiene processes and protocols, and in compliance with the South African Government’s efforts to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, Sorbet said it would be implementing the following additional precautionary hygiene protocols and safety measure across all stores on opening:

  • Prior to opening a small team will be sent in to deep clean each store;
  • All employees will be trained on hygiene protocols prior to re-opening and the impact of Covid-19 in the workplace. Training will take place online and employees will need to pass an examination prior to being ready to trade;
  • All magazines to be removed and drinks will no longer be provided to customers;
  • All employees and customers will sign a register on arrival which will include the required screening questions. Customers will also be asked the relevant screening questions regarding their health when booking an appointment;
  • Limiting the number of employees per store at any given time by introducing a shift system to limit the potential spread of infection and reduce the number of employees travelling to work each day;
  • All employees to change from their civilian clothing into their workwear upon arrival at the salon;
  • Appointing and training one employee per store as a ‘hygiene ambassador’ to ensure that all hygiene protocols are strictly adhered to daily;
  • Employees will wear face masks, protective visors and gloves with every treatment;
  • Employees to sanitise their hands regularly and in between treatments;
  • All workstations to be thoroughly sanitised at the start of the day, in between each treatment and/or customer;
  • Deep cleaning and sanitising of all resources between treatments;
  • Social distancing measures to be strictly enforced which will include restricted movement of employees outside of the salons and limiting the total number of employees in any pause areas to maximum two at a time;
  • Limiting the number of customers in the salon by staggering all bookings to allow for enough spacing between workstations in line with the social distancing guidelines of 1.5 to 2 meters, i.e. one workstation to remain open while another is in use;
  • Protective perspex screen dividers to be placed between customers, nail technicians, beauty therapists, hair stylists, barbers, at the wash basins and front desk;
  • Touchless hand sanitiser dispensers to be installed at the entrance to the salon, at the counter (if not too close to the entrance), at strategic positions throughout each salon and at each workstation;
  • Automatic soap dispensers and disposable paper towel dispensers to be installed next to all basins. Medical waste bins to be installed;
  • All customers to sanitise their hands on entering the salon and the wearing of face masks will be compulsory at all times;
  • Signage relating to hygiene protocols to be strategically positioned throughout salons;
  • Employees will sanitise their hands and spray their tools with disinfectant in front of the customer at the start of every treatment;
  • Disposable linen to be used throughout the salon and will be replaced at the end of every treatment;
  • The front desk co-ordinator will assist with retail sales as customers will be discouraged from touching retail products;
  • The front desk co-ordinator will sanitise her hands as well as the computer, receipt printer and speed point machine in front of the customer each time a new customer approaches the counter; and
  • Clear procedures implemented around managing employees or guests that are possibly infected with Covid-19.

Legal fight

Individual businesses in the grooming industry have also called on the government to ease regulations so that employees can return to work.

These businesses have been closed since the lockdown began on 27 March, with provisional guidelines indicating that they may only return to work under level 1 of the lockdown.

While these salons can open to sell products under the revised level 4 lockdown, this only accounts for a fraction of their revenue.

An online petition by the Employers’ Organisation for Hairdressing, Cosmetology and Beauty (EOHCB) has subsequently received more than 70,000 signatures, IOL reports.

They are appealing to the government to reconsider the level 1 risk adjustment. The group is also planning to challenge the regulations in court.

Read: The numbers that tell the real story about how business is collapsing in South Africa

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Sorbet wants salons, hairdressers and nail bars to reopen in South Africa – under these conditions