By Myra Reddy, Professional Beauty Association Government Affairs Director

[This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of State Legislatures.]

There are over 1 million licensed beauty professionals in the $53 billion salon industry, which continues to expand throughout the United States. Job demand is high and there is a need for new talent in the industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of beauty professionals is expected to increase 13 percent by 2026. The professional beauty industry—dominated by strong women business owners and minorities—has relatively low entry requirements, consisting of a mandatory education.

Many salon owners are challenged with health care costs, increasing minimum wages, paid sick leave, service industry taxes, salon insurance, and FICA taxes on gratuities. The employer does not profit from employee gratuities; however, the employer is required to pay FICA taxes on tips. To compare, employers in the restaurant industry receive a dollar-for-dollar credit on the employer share of FICA taxes paid on tipped income.

Salon owners accept the responsibility of continued training and mentorship of their employees, as they view it as an investment. To maintain a successful business, and provide sustainable longterm employment for individuals, business owners rely on educated and trained individuals. Employers stress the occupational license itself is not a hindrance or barrier. An occupational license does not cause the price of a haircut to increase or prevent an already diverse strong workforce from accepting and employing more individuals.

Most occupations require specific training and education prior to practicing in the profession, this concept is not new. Mandatory education and training allows for an entry point into an industry. Business owners want stability, growth and employees who have a basic understanding of health and safety.

There is an appropriate use and need for occupational licensing. The education and training one receives as they enter the industry represents the foundation for the future of one’s career. The license establishes accountability, a consumer compliant process, and upholds basic health and safety standards in a field where individuals are utilizing professional grade chemicals and tools to provide a variety of services for the consumer. Consideration should also be given to the injuries and spread of diseases that are prevented because mandatory requirements for education and training exist.

Consumers have the basic right to expect that standards and rules be followed, and they have the expectation to receive safe services in a salon environment. In an independent poll of consumers, the public overwhelmingly supports licensing of beauty professionals.

Removing or greatly altering the requirements of an occupational license, which equates to no longer requiring the education needed to obtain the license, will hurt businesses and hinder growth. If an employer cannot begin with an employee who is insurable and has the basic training needed to even start practicing in a salon, then the employment-based establishment will continue to decline. It is the employment-based establishment that is referred to as the American dream when starting a business—the type of employee-based small business that offers opportunities to everyone.

The current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 4.1 percent (according to the BLS), of this 4.1 percent, how many individuals are seeking employment in a field that requires an occupational license?

One blanket response to occupational licensing will not work across the board for all career fields. The professional beauty industry agrees there is an opportunity for reform that will help individuals who make a choice to work in the field. Far too many business owners are considering closing their doors because of costly local, state and federal regulations. Occupational licensing, however, is not one of them.

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