21 October 2021

Self-employed hairdressers and beauty therapists have changed the way they work in light of the pandemic. According to a new report up to 30% of self-employed workers have opted to convert garages and rooms in their homes or go freelance since the Covid-19 crisis took hold. 

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 survey, by the British Beauty Council, British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology, UK Spa Association and the National Hair & 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. 

Richard Lambert, chief executive at the NHBF, said: “The survey results confirm that the trend towards self-employment in hair & beauty has continued unabated through the pandemic.  It’s a different way of working, so these professionals need to ensure they are paying correct taxes and planning for the future in terms of savings and pensions, as they are no longer protected by an employer. As a consumer, I would worry that nearly a third of those who responded to the survey have not had any formal training and that the trend in self-employment could also lead to a skills shortage in the industry due to fewer people recruiting apprentices or providing in salon training. However, we are hearing from salons who have recognised the increased desire for more flexible working practices amongst their staff and had already started to adapt their approach, finding that they were more likely to keep good people if they did, and that their staff members responded well to them doing so.  The changing pattern of customer demand as a result of COVID-19, with more working from home and people’s own increased flexibility has helped.”

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

About the survey

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.