Hairdressers across Australia are frustrated, confused and anxious after mixed messaging from Prime Minister Scott Morrison on restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Alfredton Hair and Beauty owner Liana Furness has called her clients at least four times in the past five days in an effort to respond to government guidelines and ultimately decided to close her business on Wednesday.
She held a staff meeting on Sunday to implement measures including reduced working hours and rotating staff teams in an effort to maintain health and safety.
By the time the team had finished re-arranging their staff hours and client booking times they heard Victorian Premier Daniel Andrew's announcement all non-essential businesses would be closed by Tuesday.
"We stayed at work until 9.30pm on Sunday ringing all of our clients for the next two weeks to tell them what we were doing. We worked on Monday until 9pm to fit everyone in where we could," she said.
On Monday, news came through hairdressers would be classed as an essential business so staff rang clients again to re-book their appointments.
"By this stage we had to stand down a couple of staff because we didn't have the work for them," Ms Furness said.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced hairdressers could remain open but would be restricted to 30 minute appointments, so staff rang all clients again and told them they had to close the salon as their minimum service time was 45 minutes.
I feel we should have been shut down at the same time as all non-essentials were shut down.Liana Furness, Alfredton Hair and Beauty
Ms Furness said she then heard on the news on Thursday morning the Prime Minister had lifted the 30 minute restriction.
"These clients would have been called five or six times already," she said.
"I can't keep employing people for no work. I will end up going bankrupt if we keep on doing that.
"It is just me here now, down from 18 staff. I won't be doing hair but I am here taking appointments where we can for the foreseeable future and help with any hair care products. Hopefully that gives us something to come back to.
"I physically can't afford to pay staff to be here with no clients because I have had to reschedule them so many times."
Ms Furness said she understood hairdressers would at some stage have to close their salons because it was impossible to practice social distancing, but the confusing messaging had made her feel anxious and nervous.
"I feel like we should have been closed," she said.
"They are telling everyone to stay home unless it is a necessity to go out. Hair and beauty, as much as we would like to think it is a necessity, it is really not. They are telling people to stay home which is in turn costing us money to stay open when no one is coming in.
"Not only that, I don't want any of my staff to get sick. I feel we should have been shut down at the same time as all non-essentials were shut down."
- We're here and we always will be: The Courier's reporting of coronavirus
- What you should and shouldn't do if you're in coronavirus self-isolation
- How do I know if I have COVID-19?
- Coronavirus: How many confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in Australia?
- Coronavirus in Victoria: confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19
Ms Furness said she was uncertain if she would be able to access government support because it was not yet a directive that hairdressers must close down.
"My staff are trying to go to Centrelink, but I don't know where I stand," she said.
"I don't know if I have to stand them down or are they on leave without pay? No one really understands. I don't think I can seek support from the government as a small business because we haven't been forced to close down.
"There is so much confusion. In a space of five days we have open, shut, open, shut.
"I am part of the Australian Hairdressing Council and I know everyone is in the same position. Everybody wants us closed down.
"It is a very stressful time. I never thought I would see something like this in my life time. I have to just play each day as it comes and hope they do decide to shut us down and hopefully we can open again in the near future when we are through this.
"When you have got all of your rent to pay, booking systems we have to pay, bank fees, super, insurances, depending on how long we are closed for there are going to be a lot of people who can't open again. I hope we are not one of them."
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.