IR35 & OPW | What salon owners should know

The IR35 tax rules have been confusing everyone for a few years now and with the new OPW “off-payroll working” changes now being delayed (thanks to COVID-19) until April 2021, we look to clarify how either apply to Salons where they have self employed businesses working in them (whether through chair renting, space renting, contracting or income splitting).

Before you read on, this is important!

Neither IR35 nor OPW are likely to apply to your salon, because neither rules apply to:

  • Self employed contractors
  • Self employed contractors supplied by a temp agency (who would pay them via their own PAYE)
  • Contractors who have a contract of employment with an umbrella company (who would pay them via their own PAYE)

However, HMRC can still attack self employed set ups in different ways, other than IR35 & OPW. Read on…

Whats HMRC’s beef?

HMRC are looking for disguised employment. In other words, the person in your salon is (for all intents and purposes) really your employee – whether you’re treating them as that or not.


The IR35 tax rules (previously known as the “employment intermediaries” rules) apply when a “worker” in your salon supplies their services via a “controlled” 3rd party (which includes a ‘personal service company’ PSC, partnership, or even another individual).


Currently looks for an IR35 situation within the public sector; but from April 2021 now includes it within the private sector.

How might this apply to salon owners?

By using a PSC, a self employed stylist opens up the tax advantages of a Ltd company and HMRC doesn’t like this because it knows it means less tax and national insurance can be collected from that person.

As an example: a stylists works in your salon, barbershop, or spa but you pay them via their Ltd company (one that they have set up), rather than pay them directly (as you would do an employee, or self employed person).

Another example is where you have an income splitting arrangement with a stylist, but  the contract is between your salon and a Ltd company (one that they have set up) and you treat them as self employed.

The Ltd company that they have set up could be deemed a personal service companies “PSC” by HMRC.

How does HMRC use IR35 & OPW?

HMRC applies IR35 & OPW rules in cases where they consider a person is “hiding” behind a PSC but is for all intents and purposes really an employee, or  self employed individual.

Once HMRC get a whiff of this set up, they simply compare the person’s set up in practice against its own employment status test and if the person fails, they consider them an employee.

The consequence is that HMRC would then go after the person behind the PSC for income tax and NIC owed.

At the moment, the burden is on the person behind the PSC (this being the person HMRC would go after) but things are about to change…

From April 2021

From April 2021, the onus to check the employment status of any possible IR35 situation and possibly who will need to back pay the PAYE moves to the ‘end Client’ – i.e. the salon owner; but for now, this only applies to medium and large sized businesses only. For small businesses (like most salons), the onus remains with the PSC, at least for now anyway.

‘Small’ is defined as: 50 or less employees, turnover is less than £10.2million and their balance sheet shows £5.1million or less.

So pretty much all independent salons are exempt at the moment.

Should salon owners be worried then?

For the vast majority of Salon owners, IR35 & OPW should not be a worry, for at least 1 of 2 reasons:

  1. it only applies if the salon has a contract in place (either in writing or in practice) with a PSC (for example a ‘rent a chair’ arrangement with an individual using a LTD company themselves;
  2. it doesn’t apply to small businesses (ie. you’re exempt as you have less than 50 employees, your turnover is less than £10.2million and your balance sheet assets are less than £5.1million).

But watch out for self employed individuals who don’t have a PSC

Although similar (but different to IR35 or OPW) the more likely risk salon owners face is with their chair renters.

Where HMRC find that your self employed individuals should actually be treated as employees, they will go after the salon owner for PAYE & NIC, backdated to when the individual started working in your salon.

You can check each of your self employed individuals by running them through the online HMRC CEST test (link below).

Print off the results and HMRC say they will abide by them.

In conclusion

As the NHF states: “During the Queen’s Speech Boris Johnson gave an early indication that the government is concerned that the rising rates of self-employment across many sectors, including hair, barbering and beauty, could come at a cost for the government and taxpayers in lost revenues.”

And we know that Johnson recently said: “We will increase fairness and flexibility in the labour market by stopping employers and workers experiencing significantly different outcomes from flexible forms of working.”

It’s an issue that the government has being trying to attack for years – and we’ve been following their attempts very carefully.

We continue to watch this space!

Further reading

More info from HMRC can be found here:

HMRC’s CEST test can be found here:

Coronavirus | 3 major changes to furloughing staff

In the last few hours, the government has updated its guidance around furlough and we’ve been looking through it.

There are 3 key updates that we think affect you:

1. The original guidance stated that employees who resigned and left after 28 February to start a new job could not be furloughed by their old or new employer.
The updated guidance now says that the old employer can take the employee back and furlough them, but appears to use very generic wording nor any guidance on how it would work.
Remember, there is no obligation to re-hire, and we advise employers to be cautious. This new guidance seems very high level and we await questions on it over the next few days.

2. The updated guidance still does not deal with the question of holidays, although Acas has confirmed that employees on furlough can take holiday at the same time. This will help employers whose employees return from furlough with a lot of holiday to use up.

3. The new guidance has also changed its stance in that now furloughed employees can work for a different employer during furlough, so long as their employment contract allows it.

Continually changing!

See all our guidance here.

  • Posted on April 4th, 2020 in General

The coronavirus interruption loan scheme (CBILS) isn’t working as planned.

So Rishi Sunak has made amendments to the scheme, announcing them 3rd April.

If you have applied unsuccessfully, go back to the bank again. But wait a few days, as you’ll see below.

Only around £90m of CBIL loans have been approved for 1,000 small businesses so far, despite 130,000 enquiries. Not good.

Why is this?

Number one is the Treasury’s failure to place restrictions on interest rates, meaning banks were offering CBILS loans with interest rates of up to 30% and demanding personal guarantees from before they would lend.

Rishi Sunak announced the following amendments (3rd April):

  • Banks must. match the ‘commercial’ rate of interest to reflect the current low Bank of England interest rates. In other words, rates that companies can actually afford.
  • A CBIL loan is no longer a last resort. Banks were trying to get businesses to find other forms of financing first and only give them a CBIL loan if they could get nothing else. Now businesses don’t have to prove they have no other avenue to go down.
  • Banks are now banned from demanding personal guarantees for loans under £250,000. A great move.
  • The government is amending its own process to speed up approvals for the scheme.
  • According to the Rishi, the government “listened to the concerns of some larger businesses affected by COVID-19 and [will] continue to work with the financial services sector to ensure that the £330bn of government support, through loans and guarantees, reaches as many businesses in need as possible.”

He is expected to speak to the banks next week to review the scheme and “ensure everybody is playing their part”.

See more in our coronavirus survival guide

  • Posted on April 4th, 2020 in General

UPDATED CONTINUALLY | COVID-19: latest HMRC/Govt business support measures

This post has now been replaced by our Coronavirus page:

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • Posted on March 20th, 2020 in General

Covid-19 | be proactive + manage your Clients to protect your income

Salons and spas need to be proactive at the moment and actively communicate with their client base to minimise client cancellations.

It’s been seen that explaining the special measures your salon or spa has implemented to protect its clients is key.

Remember, it’s a worrying time your clients and it won’t take much for them to cancel their next appointment.

Below is an example of a communication you could send to all your Clients, especially the ones booked in over the next 4-6 weeks (but do tailor it to your own circumstances);

and also have your receptionist (or whoever answers the phone and emails) primed with what to say when a Client wants to cancel an appointment, or they’re asking whether the salon is still open, or indeed what measures you’ve got in place.

Here’s the example email:

Dear [client name]

No-one underestimates the impact that the spread of Coronavirus Covid-19 has already had and will continue to have in our daily and working lives for the foreseeable future.

I wanted to personally reassure you that we continue to monitor the situation daily and we are in a position to respond to official Government guidance as it arises.

Over the past two weeks we have put in place the following to keep you safe:

  • Clients will be asked to wash their hands when arriving at the salon
  • Our wonderful team is working hard to ensure the highest level of cleanliness, regularly washing their hands in between Clients and sanitising surfaces, sanitising tools and equipment, and wearing rubber gloves where needed
  • We are frequently cleaning all touched surfaces – such as toilets, computer keyboards, chairs, door handles and telephones – with soap and water, and then disinfecting with an EPA-registered household disinfectant containing at least 70% alcohol between clients.
  • Where possible, we will sit Clients in alternative chairs, to keep as much space between as possible
  • We do not treat Clients if they have a cough, cold or fever and our staff are sent home immediately if they have the same symptoms
  • We are encouraging contactless card payments but we offer hand sanitiser for anyone having to enter their pin manually

Our salon is working tirelessly and doing the best job we can to protect our Clients and keep them looking great!

It is still business as usual for us in these highly unusual circumstances and our intention is to continue to deliver the highest standard and quality, to all our clients and support you in every way we can.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support and to thank our staff who are all working incredibly hard to ensure we can continue to serve our Clients well.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Stay safe,

  • Posted on March 16th, 2020 in General

Corona Virus | know what to do if you have to close the salon or spa!

You should have a Business Continuity Plan and a Critical Interruption Plan in place and all staff should know both. For salons and spas, these tend to be one and the same document.

Business Continuity Plan

Your plan of how you will continue to run your salon if one or more of your staff phone in sick.

Critical Interruption Plan

Your plan of what to do if you need to close the salon for one or more days.

What to include in each

  • Ability to access an up to date list of contact numbers for all your staff from outside the salon or spa
  • Ability to access your appointments and related Client contact details from outside the salon or spa
  • Remembering GDPR for these first 2 points
  • How to contact Clients who have an appointment
    • Who will contact them
    • How they will get contact details
  • How to contact staff to let them know the latest
    • and in what order to contact them
  • Who can open up if you can’t!
  • Which staff could you get in

The list goes on but in other words: plan now because it can get chaotic very quickly when things are hitting the fan.

And make sure all your staff know what to do.

The NHBF have produced a really good guide which also looks at what to do if you need to close and what rights you have as an owner here:

  • Posted on March 3rd, 2020 in General

Corona Virus | statutory sick pay SSP

In preparation for salon and spa staff taking time off for the corona virus, we revisit the rules around statutory sick pay SSP.

It’s in law that you have to pay SSP; but you cannot reclaim it back

Since 6th April 2014, an employer can no longer claim back any SSP it has paid to its employees. The SSP paid is therefore an absolute cost to the salon owner.

SSP is £94.25 a week for up to 28 weeks

  • The employee must be sick and off work for 4 days or more
  • You do not have to pay SSP for the first 3 days – just from day 4 onwards
  • Must be paid to an employee for the days they would usually work
  • It is paid to the employee as part of your usual 4-weekly or monthly pay run
  • The employee will be liable to pay tax and national insurance on the amounts
  • You cannot force your employees to take annual leave when they’re eligible for sick leave
  • If the employee works for more than 1 minute, that day is not considered a sick day

Other rules to bear in mind:

You may not have to pay SSP if any of the following is true:

  • the employee has not yet done work for you under their employment contract (ie has not yet started)
  • the employee has earned an average of at less than £118 per week
  • the employee has not given you the correct notice (e.g. within the time limit set by you, or 7 days if you have not set one) see details here here

Self employed peeps (eg chair renters)

For self employed stylists and therapists, there’s no SSP; and also no other government benefits they can claim for time off sick.

They may have private health insurance but would have to check if Corona Virus is covered.

Advice from the FSB:

“Employees who develop symptoms will of course be unfit for work.

They will be entitled to SSP subject to meeting the qualifying criteria. Additionally, an employee is deemed to be incapable of work for SSP purposes if they:

• are a carrier of, or

• have been in contact with an infectious or contagious disease of a kind specified in Regulation 2(3) of the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 and has been issued with a statement from a registered medical practitioner advising them not to go to work due to it being known or reasonably suspected that they have been in contact with or infected by one.”

Advice from ACAS:

“The ACAS guidance on coronavirus states, in brief, that there’s no statutory right to pay if someone is not sick but cannot work because they:

  • have been told by a medical expert to self-isolate
  • have had to go into quarantine
  • are abroad in an affected area and are not allowed to travel back to the UK

But it’s good practice for their employer to treat it as sick leave and follow their usual sick pay policy or agree for the time to be taken as holiday.

The guidance can be found here: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

Clearly if employees have been told to self-isolate on medical advice because it is known or reasonably suspected they have been exposed to the virus, rather than just as a precautionary measure, they would be entitled to SSP (subject to meeting eligibility criteria).”

  • Posted on March 2nd, 2020 in General

What to do when a stylist resigns | 11 practical steps

It happens. For whatever reason. And here’s a checklist of what you need to do as soon as it does:

Part 1. Financial Control & Information Security

  1. Block their user access to your reservation system (eg Phorest) and your business email if they have one.
  2. Inform them that all client information is owned by the salon and not them; and that taking client data with them is illegal under GDPR amongst other things; and that they cannot contact any client by any means.
  3. Remind them of any radial clause in their contract.
  4. Remind them that photos taken in the salon are owned by the salon and cannot be used for promoting themselves in their new venture.
  5. Consider letting them go immediately rather than working their notice period – especially if you think they’ll spend their notice period informing/contacting clients, bad mouthing you and your business or generally bringing staff morale down.
  6. Let your accountant/payroll provider know immediately so they can finalise pay. Also, check how many holidays they have taken and whether they still owe any staff advance, or have had training paid for, which they will need to pay back.
  7. Ask your accountant to calculate the net cash loss to the salon (this being the sales income they generate excluding VAT less their payroll cost (including ad ons like NI and pension). From this you can quickly foresee any likely cash flow issues and plan accordingly.

Part 2. Look after your clients and staff:

8. Make sure you contact the stylist’s clients asap

Have a positive story ready, keeping it up beat, and letting them know who will be taking over (giving a short paragraph about them); and that you’re really looking forward to seeing them at their next appointment.

9. Ensure your staff are on board

Give all your staff a clear sentence or two to say if anyone asks about the stylist who has left. Again, make it a positive message and be clear to your staff that there should be no gossiping with their Clients!

10. Monitor the stylist’s Clients

Some of their clients may well go with the stylist but you still have their contact details, so keep them on any marketing emails. They may well return!

11. Find out why the stylist is leaving

The more information you can glimmer when someone leaves, the better. Ask them 2 things:

i. why they are leaving (but probe, as it’s not always the first thing they say which is the real reason!)

ii. what do they think the salon could be doing better (don’t be defensive – just reflect later on what they say as they may well have a point and maybe discuss it with your more trusted stylists)

  • Posted on February 21st, 2020 in General

Why Won’t My Clients Rebook | Adam Chatterley

Salonfrog thinks this podcast is great!

And we have seen that the more successful salons are doing this already. It’s just a process that’s in place for them; and why we also recommend you keep an eye on your rebooking and pre booking KPI’s!

It definitely worth a listen and we’ve made a few points from it to show you why:

  • The absolute key is the lifetime value of clients rather than what they just spent on their last visit
  • Are you spending too much of your time chasing new clients rather than on the ones you already have?
  • Why do clients not rebook after a service?
  • A rebooking rate of 30% is too low!
  • What’s the difference between rebooking and pre booking and why both are important.
  • Have a process in place, as standard, to turn that ‘one visit’ client to a ‘repeat visit’ in the same way that you have a process for getting a new client in, in the first place. Ensure all staff know and follow this process!
  • The cost of getting new clients is much more expensive than increasing visits/spend of existing ones
  • You should be in charge of your salon’s future time – not your Clients – so you can resource and even take time off yourself rather than waiting until a week or two before to see how it’s going
  • Help your clients rebook at the right time for their hair type and they’ll appreciate it
  • What the perception of a fuller booking book (i.e. a busy salon) has on both your staff and your clients. And your potential prices!
  • When a client asks are you busy? Ensure your staff always answer yes.
  • Cancellations are likely to go down!

As Adam says, your Salon should be asking every Client this question, every time:

“Shall we get you booked in for next tine so you can get your preferred day and time.“

Here’s the link:

BBP 080 : Why Won’t My Clients Rebook?


  • Posted on February 12th, 2020 in General

Admit and commit

January has wizzed by and like most salon and barbershop owners you’ve been looking forwards to the year ahead. Maybe you’ve already reset your budget for the year, started revisiting your commission structure, or thinking of how to push retail sales more this year.

But it’s also a great time to do something called ‘admit and commit’; often known as ‘sorting out’ the white elephants in the room!


What are the things that your business is not getting right.

Jot them down, in any order.

It might be around a specific stylist who’s not performing well; how you handle your stock; the Client’s journey from booking to chair; your online booking system; or whatever. You probably know what they are already!


Commit to sorting them out.

From the list, choose the easy pickings (the ones you can sort out quickly) and also (say) the top 3. Work out what you need to do, who needs to do it, and a time frame. Committing to sorting something out is the most important step. Then discard the rest.

Get your staff involved

Ask your staff to do the same. Or at least, ask them what they think the ‘Admits’ are for the salon. You might find they differ from what you think; and by getting your staff bought into the Admit/Commit process, you’ll find it easier to do.

Admit and Commit for 2020.

  • Posted on January 29th, 2020 in General

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