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Cleaning staff feel invisible says EHRC reportCleaning staff feel invisible says EHRC report

» Posted on: 27 August 2014

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The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have published a major new report into the commercial cleaning industry's near-half-a-million strong workforce. This may be of particular interest to those that are commercial cleaners or who contract in cleaning services.

The Commission found many examples of good practice in employment and working conditions as set out below:

Examples of good practice were -

  • Cleaning firms providing tender proposals for contracts at both the market rate (often minimum wage) and at a living wage rate.
  • Clients setting the contract value to cover the costs of paying workers a living wage and including living wage clauses in contracts
  • Clients introducing daytime cleaning to reduce their energy and security costs, so allowing cleaning firms to offer workers regular sociable hours, with opportunities for longer or full time hours.
  • Clients integrating contractor workers into their workforce through involvement in the client firm's training, staff meetings and social events.
  • Clients and cleaning firms valuing cleaning staff: in some cases this meant basic social niceties such as greeting or thanking individuals; in other cases, firms had specific events or awards to recognise good team work or performance.
  • Clients and cleaning firms providing training that broadened skills and opened career opportunities: this included induction into clients' policies and procedures, and access to customer service training or to health and safety training leading to accreditation.

However many cleaners spoke of being ‘invisible’ - the ‘lowest of the low’, being spoken to rudely and treated badly compared to other employees.The study reveals that some employers in the commercial cleaning industry are failing to meet their responsibilities to their staff on pay, holiday or sick leave or dealing with their concerns. Significant numbers of cleaners said they received no support when they complained of being harassed or bullied, and some said they were punished with extra work or worse duties for raising concerns. Others said they were afraid to report problems for fear of losing their jobs, and a few workers said they were threatened with dismissal when they told their employer they were pregnant.

Over the next few months, the EHRC will be working alongside a taskforce bringing together cleaning firms, trade associations, client organisations, trade unions and government to build on good practice and to improve fairness, dignity and respect across the industry. The full report - The Invisible Workforce: Employment Practices in the Cleaning Sector can be found here: www.equalityhumanrights.com/invisible_workforce.

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