Is the EU banning high heels for hairdressers?

11 April 2012

Is the European Union about to put its foot down over footwear in hair salons?

That was the suggestion in one Daily Mail article yesterday, which reported that:

"Hairdressers will be banned from wearing high heels and jewellery under nanny state proposals being drawn up in Brussels."

According to the paper, the EU is also proposing "not to let staff do too many haircuts in one day to prevent 'emotional collapses'," and that the measures were "likely to be used to restrict working times."

The Sun also reported the story under the headline "Hair Hitlers".

So do British hairdressers need to review their wardrobes and working arrangements?

We got in touch with the European Commission's representation in London to find out, and they kindly provided us with a copy of the set of proposals under discussion.

It should be noted that these are draft plans being drawn up by the employers' and workers' representatives - Coiffure EU and UNI Europa Hair & Beauty — rather than the EU itself. UK hairdressers are themselves represented by the National Hairdressers Federation, which forms part of Coiffure EU.

In fairness to the Mail, this is something they acknowledge in the body of the article, despite calling them "new EU proposals" in the headline.

High heels and jewellery 'banned'?

The draft agreement does include a clause that stipulates:

"workers shall wear suitable clothes for their activities or workwear clothing and, in particular, shoes with non-slip soles."

However there is no mention at all of 'banning' high-heels, and a spokesperson for the Commission in London confirmed that the draft proposal "says nothing about heels."

However it is stipulated that "workers shall not wear jewellery on their hands or arms during work," another clause picked up in the Mail's reporting.

The explanation given by Coiffure EU is that "wearing jewellery at work in hairdressing, especially when washing hair is a leading cause of skin diseases — several studies prove this," while the Commission itself notes that it is already prohibited in Germany.

Working times restricted?

The draft proposals also include a clause on preventing the 'emotional collapses' alluded to in the Mail.

This states that employers must "ensure a careful preparation of work, an appropriate planning of the working time and work organisation."

However the spokesperson for the Commission told Full Fact that this "does not foresee a limit on the number of haircuts carried out by a hairdresser per day."

This would appear to contradict the Mail's account, which insists that the EU is proposing "not to let staff do too many haircuts in one day."

Certainly in the draft text itself there is nothing which stipulates a maximum number of cuts that can be made daily, and rather focuses in more general terms on employers providing "appropriate support for the individual" to prevent stress.


The Mail is right that new regulations for hairdressers are being drafted, and it has accurately reproduced some of the clauses under discussion.

However in doing so the paper has made some assertions that aren't quite supported by the facts. The plans are being drafted by trade bodies rather than the EU itself, and as they stand they don't include anything to support the headline claim that high heels are being "banned".

Furthermore there isn't anything that would specifically limit the number of haircuts staff can undertake in a day.


Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.