3 key questions about salon & spa workers’ compensation

Hair salon

Here in New York, there is a salon on every corner, usually right next door to a pizzeria. Each of these former “beauty parlors” seems to be blossoming into a full-service, diversified salon or day spa with luxury services ranging from simple haircuts and Keratin treatments to hot stone massage and anti-aging facials.

More services often mean a bigger staff with more diverse skills, though as we discussed in a previous post, many beauty professionals work as independent contractors. But even if a salon or spa depends solely on independent contractors, they should still think about workers’ compensation. Why? Let’s answer that question with three different questions:

What are salons’ risk exposures for employee/contractor injury?

As a whole, hair stylists, nail techs and estheticians face many risks inherent to their professions: standing all day, slippery, hair-plastered floors, scissors and razors, repetitive tasks, various chemicals, etc.

But even as the industry has turned to gentler chemicals, fatigue mats and ergonomic equipment, beauty professionals are providing new and trendy services, from Brazilian hair treatments to vibrant hair colors to laser treatments. Salon owners and managers need to make sure their evaluation of their workers’ comp risks evolves as their services do.

Are salon & spa owners looking at their stylists, techs and staff from a risk management perspective?

Despite these risks, most salons and spas have relatively few accidents. But what happens if a contract stylist slips on a spill and breaks her wrist? If she does not have proper insurance coverage, she may have no other recourse but to draw the salon into a lawsuit.

In addition to educating employee staff members about risks and accident prevention, salon and spa owners can and should take control of their environment by having rules for independent contractors. Require independents to follow the same safety and wellness procedures and guidelines that staff do. They can also be required to carry workers’ comp coverage for themselves. And, of course, everyone who performs services in a salon or spa should be properly licensed.

Do salon & spa owners understand workers’ compensation and their options?

Workers’ compensation insurance coverage is required by law for all employers. If a salon is trying to get by without it, the owner is putting the business in serious jeopardy. Options for workers’ comp look different from state to state. But in many states, employers have the option of buying insurance through the state insurance fund or through a private insurance company.

Private insurance carriers pride themselves on offering good service, competitive pricing, and coverage flexibility, and in the event of a claim, you can expect expedient handling. For salons and spas with operations in two states, going with a private workers’ comp insurer may be the most sensible option. If you run a salon in New York City with a satellite location in Jersey City, New Jersey, some insurers (like Brownyard) can put those businesses on the same policy. If you go through the state funds, you’ll need two different policies.

Depending on independent contractors can open up a minefield of liabilities. If you’re a salon owner who doesn’t quite understand workers’ comp (and who can blame you; insurance can be complicated), contact your broker or contact me at gcuce@brownyard.com.


Gamble Cuse, Program Manager for SASSI, the Salon and Spa Specialty Insurance program at Brownyard Group. She can be reached at gcuse@brownyard.com.


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