Some struggling locked-down hairdressers are being approached by customers desperate to get a hair cut who are willing to break the rules.
James Carlisle, co-founder of the Vivo hair salon chain, said he was constantly hearing of hairdressers doing private jobs for people.
“Almost every hairdresser we have, certainly all the ones I’ve talked to, have been contacted by numerous clients asking them to break the rules.”
Carlisle said he understood the temptation for thousands of Auckland hairdressers who had suffered a severe drop in income during lockdown, and said it was unfair that salons could not open when Auckland moves to step 2 of alert level 3.
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“Instead of that we have this very unregulated black market. What’s more likely to spread Covid – this unregulated black market or having legitimate professionally run businesses running under health and standards?”
Some hairdressers were advertising home services on Facebook and Instagram pages, and one staff member was disciplined for doing that, Carlisle said.
“That would be a disciplinary issue, we’d have a big problem with that.
“But our Vivo staff are getting paid their full wages anyway, they’re not going to have the financial pressure that these other hairdressers have.”
Carlisle was concerned about the loss of income, but had salons that operated outside Auckland and Waikato.
There was also anger and confusion expressed on Facebook by some hairdressers who did not want to get vaccinated, or use a vaccine certificate, about whether they could operate under the new traffic light system at all.
Hair and Barber NZ Makawe me Kaikuti Makawe o Aotearoa members have been displaying “our team is vaccinated” stickers since October. Association president Niq James said last month that, like frontline staff, hairdressers and barbers interacted closely with clients and needed protection.
Close contact businesses such as hair salons can opt not to get a vaccine certificate when the new system rolls out, meaning they can serve both vaccinated and unvaccinated customers at Green, as long as staff wear face coverings and customers are 1 metre apart. They must close at Orange and Red.
Close contact businesses with a vaccine certificate can operate at all levels, but at Red must meet public health requirements.
Carlisle said anger about the vaccine rules was more common than confusion.
“Lots of people who really don’t want to get a vaccine, they’re very, very angry at being put in this position where they have to get one. And when people feel aggrieved, when they’re angry, they tend to not respect the law as much, they probably feel like they’re justified in doing whatever it is they want to do.”
Employment lawyer Jo Douglas, partner at Douglas Erickson, said the message from the Government made vaccine certificates appear mandated, but certain businesses could choose to opt out and accept the consequences if the system turned to Orange or Red.
“There’s an assumption that they will want to open and will therefore opt in.”
The final rules may change slightly once the legislation is brought in, and it was important for employers and employees to check, she said.
Some unvaccinated workers were sharing advice on Facebook to take stress leave, citing mental health problems, rather than resign, to make life difficult for employers.
Employment lawyer John Farrow, a partner at Anderson Lloyd, said after three days of sick leave, an employer could require a medical certificate as proof an employee could not work.
An employer could agree to extended unpaid sick leave, but at some point most would have to either get the employee to make a decision to return to work or follow the process to terminate their employment.
“You would have to have a genuine business reason why you needed to terminate them, so if there’s no downside for an employer to have someone off on sick leave, and they can get the work performed by someone else at the same cost, then there won’t be an obvious imperative to get rid of them.”
The anger and confusion around workplace vaccination requirements was understandable, Farrow said.
“There are people who see vaccinations as straightforward, and they don’t understand the anxiety and concerns that people who aren’t keen on vaccinations have.
“And I think what you’re seeing amongst really good employers, the common denominator is education. I’ve heard of some well-resourced employers who will hire a health specialist to come in and speak face to face with those that have questions and concerns about the vaccines to properly educate them.
“That’s by far the best way to try to achieve a vaccinated workforce, to work with people and educate them rather than try to bang them over the head with a compulsion order.”
Douglas said employers might find alternatives if they did not want to dismiss an unvaccinated employee, if both sides agreed.
The government announcements had under emphasised the point that employment law still applied, and that good faith applied to all aspects of an employment relationship.
“I think this is a classic case where good faith must be remembered, and we need to consult and talk to our staff and find ways to make this work for employers and employees.”