21 March 2019

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination and it applies to businesses such as barbershops and salons. Equality law means that when providing goods and services a business must not discriminate against anyone on the grounds of gender. This also applies not only to male or female clients but also to individuals who have changed from one sex to another or who are transitioning.

If a barbershop refuses to cut a woman’s hair simply because she is a woman, or charges a woman more than a man for exactly the same service, this is direct discrimination which is always unlawful. The terms of a barbershop’s lease cannot be used as a defence against discrimination, as that would make the terms of the lease unlawful.

The services you offer must be available to everyone, regardless of gender. However, a barbershop cannot be expected to offer a service to a woman if they don’t offer that service to men either, for example, a hair colour or a blow dry. If there are services the barbershop doesn’t provide to men, then refusing to offer them to female customers is not direct discrimination.

Hilary Hall, chief executive of the NHF/NBF said,

“Treating everyone equally can only be positive for your business.

“Treating everyone equally can only be positive for your business. Why risk a storm of negative comments on social media and possible legal action? As well as female clients wanting barber cuts, there’s a growing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBQT) community out there who are looking for the services barbershops offer, so it makes good business sense too.”

Hilary also urges salons to look at pricing structures which can leave them open to claims of discrimination. She said, “There should never be a difference in price for exactly the same service just because a client is male or female. Salons and barbershops need to make it clear that prices are based on the stylist or barber’s skills and experience, the products and equipment used, the client’s hair type and the time it takes to provide the service - never on gender. Many salons have adopted gender-neutral price lists which can also be a great selling and marketing point.”

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