The pricing system used by barbers and hair salons cannot be based on the customer's gender
The Equality Act does not prevent business owners from only offering their services as a barber or a hairdresser, or from pricing their services according to the amount and quality of the work. Neither does the Equality Act require business owners to complete additional training or purchase new tools. The Equality Act only requires a barber or hairdresser to offer their services to both genders, and that the pricing is based on the work done to the customer's hair, not on the customer's gender.
Work carried out on women's hair is usually more professionally demanding. This is not, however, always the case. Therefore the average differences in the work carried out on women's and men's hair do not justify pricing based on gender.
Acceptable factors that pricing can be based on are the time spent, the level of professional skill that was required, or the products and the amount of products that was used. When the time spent is used as a basis for pricing, it has to be based on the actual time the work took, rather than an average time for women and men.
(Press release from the Ombudsman for Equality of 22 April 2010)
A woman can also be a barber's client
The Ombudsman for Equality was asked to determine whether a barber shop has acted in accordance with the Act on Equality between Women and Men when refusing to serve a female client. The barber shop had maintained that it only provides services for men for reasons related to privacy and modesty.
The Act on Equality between Women and Men does not prohibit the provision of separate barber and hairdressers' services. Entrepreneurs in the hairstyling industry can provide services according to their business concept, vocational skills and available tools. An entrepreneur in the hairstyling industry can therefore only provide barber's services. However, the Ombudsman for Equality found that barbers and hairdressers cannot select their clients on the basis of their gender.
The Ombudsman for Equality stated that the privacy and modesty related reasons presented by the barber shop did not apply to hair care related services. The Act on Equality between Women and Men determines that entrepreneurs in the hairstyling industry must provide services to both women and men. For this reason, a woman can also be a barber's client. When refusing to provide services to a female client, the barber shop acted contrary to the Act on Equality between Women and Men.
Offering beauty salon services based on gender
The principle of equal treatment does not require that men and women are always offered the same conditions. The requirement is that services may not be offered to one gender in a more favourable way.
According to the Equality Act, the prevailing cultural practice and reasons of modesty may be a justifiable basis for different treatment.
In the beauty industry a business owner can refer to modesty reasons as a legitimate objective based on which women working in the field cannot be required without their consent to perform certain beauty treatments which require a person of the opposite gender to expose their intimate areas. Therefore a woman working in the beauty industry can refuse to carry out certain beauty treatments on men when the treatment requires a client of the opposite gender to expose their intimate areas.
(TAS 316/2008; TAS 359/2013)