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Beauty and the Beast of Reason

In the newspapers, media and on the television are examples of people complaining about quality of services, treatment, and products.  This year we have seen examples of alleged mistreatment never seen before.  Even though New Zealand in the past was not much of an argumentative society, this is all changing.

There are several areas of insurance which should be compulsory in professions such as beauty therapy.  One of these is cover for alleged negligence of treatment and/or advice.  Never assume that the client/customer understands the treatment and/or advice said to them.

There is still a myth that public liability is the same as professional indemnity.  It is not.  The best example is a client comes in for a leg waxing and places the most expensive of suits on a chair next to the massage table.  The wax falls out of your hand and lands on the chair and flows over the suit.  The client screams in anger, jumps up, gets dressed and leaves.  You are phoned by the client’s lawyer to pay $3,000 for a new suit.  Public Liability will pay for this damage less the excess of $500.

Professional Indemnity is there for the work you are doing on the body and the advice you are giving the client.  This is the insurance for product treatment and client advice.  An example is that a client has been coming to you for some years and asks for a new treatment.  You do not get them to fill in a new informed consent form or give them a disclosure document. You don’t give them a post treatment form.  You talk to the client about the new treatment, and then begin the procedure.  When the client pays, she mentions the treatment hurt and she feels a burning sensation but there is another client awaiting your attention and you advise the client to keep in touch.

Five days later, you get a letter from a lawyer, alleging gross negligence and advice that this will be going to court.  You ring up your insurer/insurance broker for insurance action and you are told you have Public Liability and you are not covered.

This is why I believe the Salon Liability Package should be essential for a clinic to survive.  The Package includes Statutory Liability which pays for legal advice and court action.

Nobody wants to have to go to court or get involved in an argument with a client or have to go on television or have negative publicity personally and for their business.

Steps to take to avoid this sort of stress are –

  1. Get ARBthNZ Salon Liability Package
  2. Have a Disclosure Statement in place
  3. Have an Informed Consent form set up which the client must

Sign, on the basis they fully understand the treatment they will receive, any possible side effects and that they have disclosed to the clinic their personal medical information including all allergies, medication, occupation and any treatments they are receiving. This is called Best Practice and confirms you have taken all practicable steps to protect your clients.

  1. Always give the client after treatment, a Post Treatment Form.
  2. Contact your insurance provider once there is a possibility of a claim, not a probability.

However, if despite all steps taken, the client does have an allergic reaction or scarring, the clinic has written proof that best practice applied with the informed consent and disclaimer and post treatment form.  Beauty clinics’ ‘incidents’ are covered under ACC treatment.  As soon as a client advises you that there has been an unexpected result to a treatment, the following two steps must be taken immediately.

  1. Advise your client to go to see their doctor and after examination, the doctor may issue an ACC form which the client can submit for further treatment to a specialist, etc.
  2. Contact your insurance provider, either broker or insurance company to advise of a possible claim.

 

What does ACC not cover?

  • illness
  • stress, hurt feelings, loss of enjoyment or other emotional issues (these may be covered if these are the direct result of a physical injury or sexual abuse)
  • injuries related mainly to ageing. That means they don’t cover injuries to teeth from normal use, or heart (cardio-vascular) disease or brain (cerebro-vascular) disease, unless it stems from medical treatment or a work injury involving abnormal or excessively intense effort
  • non-traumatic hernias (eg from coughing or sneezing, or not directly as a result of trauma)
  • injuries that come on gradually and are not due to a work task (non-occupational gradual process injuries).

It is important to realize that ACC is there for accidents but specifically excludes emotional harm from a treatment.   In other words, if a client accuses you of loss of enjoyment because the outcome of the treatment affected their ability to work with others, this is not covered by ACC.

However, if the client writes or phones and advises you of their intention to take you to court for emotional distress or loss of enjoyment of life, please inform your insurance provider immediately.

To take you to court, in this case, would entail proof from a doctor that the client’s suffering is caused by the clinic’s accidental treatment.  If the client receives this proof, there may be court action under an Act of Parliament, ie Consumers Guarantee Act, Fair Trading Act, or Advertising Standards Act to quote just a few.

Statutory Liability together with Professional Indemnity insurance will cover this situation, but initially, it is worth having a meeting with the client, not to admit liability, but to offer as a gesture of good will, a free treatment or a refund.  With all meetings with clients, it is a good idea to have a witness who can write down what is said and both client and owner can sign this report as a true and correct record and date it.

Beauty Therapy is a professional service and errors and omissions can occur in any occupation.  Communication with the client and the insurance provider are two of the steps for best practice by your clinic. Beauty Therapy providers are also service providers. For best service it makes sense to have the right  insurance in place to protect your profession.

The beast of reason is to ensure that all information available is given to a client so that you are absolved of any responsibility in the event of product advice and/or treatment causing a sudden, unexpected incident.


Lesley Scher, IBANZ. QPIB, is Managing Director of The Insurance Brokers Limited, the Preferred ABthNZ Insurance supplier for the last ten years and developer of the Salon Businesspack for Association Members only. For further details of the Salon Businesspack and related Group Discounted products, contact Lesley or one of her team on Ph: 09 360 4219 or email: lesley@tib.co.nz