European code of conduct agreed in hairdressing

A code of conduct was signed in June 2001 by the European-level social partners in the personal services (hairdressing) sector. The code, hailed as the most comprehensive adopted at European level so far, covers issues such as working conditions, fair wages, profits, lifelong learning, information and consultation of employees and combating non-declared work.

A code of conduct, entitled "How to get along", was signed on 26 June 2001 by the European-level social partners in the personal services (hairdressing) sector - the Confédération Européenne des Organisations Patronales de la Coiffure (CIC Europe) for the employers and UNI-Europa Hair and Beauty (the relevant European section of Union Network International) for the trade unions. The code is divided into separate sections containing principles and guidelines.

The preface to the agreement states that the hairdressing industry is of great importance in the EU as it comprises some 400,000 salons and employs over 1 million workers, amounting to some 8% of the total service sector in Europe. The parties to the accord state that the code has been formulated in order to "safeguard a favourable development with excellent standards for the mutual benefit of employers, employees, clients and society". They urge the social partners in all EU Member States in this sector to adhere to the guidelines contained in the code.

The principles

Good working relations between employers and employees are seen as essential to guarantee high-quality hairdressing salons with a well trained and highly motivated staff. The code adds that working relations are the result of trust, cooperation and continuous social dialogue. However, an excellent working environment can be achieved only if the following four criteria are met:

  • salons are profitable;
  • wage and working conditions are fair;
  • there is a favourable social working environment; and
  • lifelong learning is promoted.

Profits

The parties state that profits are vital for the continued existence of salons and consequently for jobs. Healthy profits also make it possible for employees to enjoy good pay and working conditions. They add that it is also important that employees should be informed about basic economic developments concerning their salon.

Fair wages and good working conditions

High-quality work should, according to the code of conduct, be appropriately remunerated, and good wages help the image of the branch. This also attracts the best apprentices, encourages existing employees to stay and fosters high productivity.

Similarly, good working conditions also encourage employees to stay, bringing stability and a better quality of life to salons. This also prevents disputes and contributes to the growth and profitability of salons.

Social working environment

The "social working environment" is defined as an environment where there is room for self-expression and creativity, co-responsibility of employees and a sense of teamworking. This in turn leads to less stress and a drop in absenteeism, benefiting both employees and customers.

Lifelong learning

The parties state that lifelong learning is the joint responsibility of employers and employees and that continuous vocational training is essential to enable a salon to keep abreast of changes and to keep ahead of competitors. Further, learning increases employability, which leads to employment security and mobility of employees.

The guidelines

In order to put the above principles into practice, the parties to the accord have drawn up a list of 10 guidelines. Within the context of national laws, labour relations and employment practices and specific responsibilities, employers and employees should:

  • work together, in a spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding. This will contribute to the economic, social and environmental progress of salons, on the understanding that the objective of salons is to make profits. The parties should also work together to ban "black market work and non-declared work";
  • not discriminate against customers or employees on any grounds at all, including sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, languages, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation or nationality;
  • respect principles governing the protection of children and young workers;
  • provide the best possible pay and benefits in order to attract the best apprentices and guarantee high quality to customers;
  • provide the best possible conditions of work (taking into account the necessary flexibility for the operation of the business) in the area of health, safety and dignity, maximum working hours, daily and weekly rest periods and annual leave;
  • help to reconcile family and professional life;
  • encourage self-expression and employee co-responsibility, based on continuing training and lifelong learning. This should be aimed at improving skills levels and employee development in order to improve employability, increase employee mobility and create job enrichment;
  • observe rules concerning protection against unfair dismissal;
  • respect the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining; and
  • inform and consult employees and their representatives "in good time" on "basic business figures of the salons and on matters of mutual concern".

The parties make a commitment to follow up this code within the framework of their European-level sectoral social dialogue, which began in 1998 (EU9909188F). The text of the code is not legally binding, although the parties to the agreement strongly recommend to their national members that they implement it in daily practice. The code will be distributed to all those involved in the sector, and is intended to reach a broad audience.

Commentary

This latest product of the EU-level sectoral social dialogue is significant, both in terms of the potential numbers of employers and employees covered, and also in terms of its content. The hairdressing sector is estimated to account for around 8% of employment in the service sector in Europe, with many small and entrepreneurial businesses which are relatively difficult to regulate in terms of employment rights. The content is, compared with other similar initiatives, extremely detailed, covering a range of issues from non-discrimination to pay, working time, information and consultation, prohibition of child labour and protection against unfair dismissal. The European Commission has described the code as "the most comprehensive adopted at European level so far".

The fact that the code also contains explicit commitments to engage in the fight against illegal and undeclared work is also significant as, in a sector which is characterised by small businesses, this issue can be problematic. Although, as the parties state, the text is not binding, there are hopes that adherence to its provisions will be strong across the sector and that this could inspire other sectors to develop similar codes of conduct. (Andrea Broughton, IRS)

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