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

HSA, with the support of the SDA and AWU, 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, arguing the hair and beauty industry operated along similar lines to retail and hospitality, which have also seen cuts to penalty rates.

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.

“It’s already hard enough to attract and keep good staff,” says 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.”

This is national victory for hair stylists and beauty therapists, and it shows that when we come together and support one another, we can drive real change. Without the legal team who presented with the support of HSA, there would have been no challenge to HABA’s submission to Fair Work.

While HSA is celebrating this victory, we also know that we can’t rest on our laurels. HABA or other organisations will continue to chip away at hair stylists’ pay and conditions, whether it’s penalty rates, allowances, or loadings, and we have to be ready to fight.

We’ve grown hugely in the last two years, but we know with more members, we could do so much more for the hair and beauty industry. We’ve got big plans to improve the trade, like ensuring casual workers receive their full penalty rates and loadings, improving the licencing system, and building our Ethical Salons programme.

Join the movement and help HSA shake up the industry. Become a member to support our campaigns and also receive legal and industrial support in your own workplace. Together, we’re going to bring back the respect hair stylists and beauty therapists deserve.