The British Cleaning Council and members write monthly columns for both Cleaning and Maintenance and Tomorrow’s Cleaning magazines. You can read the latest columns below.
The path towards accredited training for the cleaning and hygiene sector
By British Cleaning Council Chairman Paul Thrupp
(This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in April)
By the time you read this column, I expect the BCC to have established a Trailblazer group dedicated to working up a proposal for a recognised and university training accreditation across the whole of cleaning and hygiene industry.
The group will be considering the structure of the program and how an industry-wide apprenticeship could work.
When finalised, the proposals will go to the newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry for their consideration and, we hope, the proposals will win their support.
The idea will ultimately need to be accepted by The Institute for Apprenticeships to become official, but we will have a greater chance of success if the APPG gets their shoulder behind it.
I personally think there is an overwhelming need for an industry-wide training accreditation and apprenticeship.
Parts of the industry, particularly in London and the hospitality sector, rely on high levels of workers from aboard and the recent Immigration Bill has made it much harder for potential employees to enter the UK and work in our industry on the basis that jobs are thought of as low-skilled by some people.
We who work in the industry know we do a skilled job, and that cleaning is not simply an add-on to someone’s day job. If cleaning is carried out incorrectly, it could compromise the environment and potentially delay the recovery from Covid-19.
The remarkable and vital work of our cleaning and hygiene colleagues during the pandemic has demonstrated that ours is a skilled occupation and we must make Government understand this if we are to have a chance of influencing policy. Having an industry agreed training accreditation is essential to achieving that objective.
The APPG agreeing to make this issue one of their priorities was a major step forward.
The Apprenticeship Levy is another reason why a recognised, industry-wide training accreditation makes sense. Employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million put around 0.5% of their annual pay bill towards the levy, and this can be utilised on apprenticeships.
However, at the moment, some companies in our sector are paying this levy without getting any benefits, as there is no appropriate apprenticeship for the majority of their staff. For these companies, funding their own apprentices to work towards a recognised cleaning and hygiene qualification, instead of losing levy funding, makes total sense.
Unfortunately, the industry has tried to win support for an apprenticeship before and failed. In 2017, The Institute for Apprenticeships turned down a proposal to develop an all-encompassing replacement for the Level 2 Cleaning and Environmental Services apprenticeship.
But I think the time is right to try again. There is significant industry support for the idea, as indicated by the agreement of several of the biggest businesses in the sector to be represented on the Trailblazer group.
The pandemic has also gone some way to changing the way our industry is viewed within Government and the country at large, with increased recognition of the industry’s vital role.
We have seen cleaning and hygiene operatives thanked in the Houses of Parliament and, of course, a sizeable group of MPs, including some of the most prominent Parliamentarians in the land, have joined the APPG, which is all very encouraging.
There is also a lot of training expertise in the sector which we can build on. Our members were involved in the creation of the Healthcare Cleaning Operative apprenticeship, which gives us a model to base the sector-wide apprenticeship on.
Our colleagues at the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners are developing a Register of Chartered Cleaning Practitioners and we can also draw on years of expertise in training held by the British Institute of Cleaning Science.
Just to be clear, this is not a done deal. There is still a lot of work to do, and it will take persistence. But I am very optimistic about our prospects.
Hospitality heroes show dedication and resilience during the pandemic
By Liz Smith-Mills FIH, FBICSc, Deputy Chair of UKHA Yorkshire and North East Region, and Ambassador for Hospitality Action
(This article was first published in Cleaning and Maintenance in April)
Over the past twelve months, the hospitality industry has experienced turbulence and unpredictability. From forced closures to ever-changing government guidance, the Covid-19 crisis has had a severe impact on businesses and customer confidence.
Some hotels, such as The Athenaeum Hotel in London, remained open throughout lockdown to care for their elderly permanent residents and accommodate other guests who were stranded.
Other hotels accommodated key workers while some establishments took on the responsibility of ensuring safety and compliance with new norms and regulations.
When hotels have remained open, instilling confidence and reassurance that their establishment has been cleaned to the highest standard has fallen on the shoulders of the often unsung heroes in housekeeping. Housekeepers have faced real challenges but have also achieved much during the pandemic.
For example, a family who were flooded out of their home stayed at the Salutation hotel in Perth and were moved to tears when housekeeping put a Christmas tree in their room.
A consultant physician staying The Athenaeum Hotel was too scared to see his family for weeks and weeks but was able to reunite with his wife and daughters after being reassured about the stringent cleaning regimes in place and lack of Covid cases.
The Milestone Hotel in London adjusted to a totally new way of working but still retained Five-Star Forbes listing as well as being certified Covid-19 confident by the AA.
The Principal Hotel, York, brought in thorough and efficient processes to ensure the safety of guests involving lengthier cleaning times, despite the challenges of busy periods and increased guest expectations.
In all properties, my colleagues got used to following new procedures to prevent infection, such as using certified chemicals to ensure effective disinfection and sanitizing. We initially followed NHS guidelines then ISSA GBAC Star accreditation was introduced. The UKHA Covid tool kit was also an invaluable tool.
Housekeeping teams have also had to take on new duties and multi-task. At the Yew Lodge, a skeleton housekeeping staff wore different hats daily to help in varied roles ranging from serving breakfasts, cooking pizzas for guests, working on reception and even painting corridors and rooms.
During this time of fear and anxiety, uncertainty and powerlessness, we used messages, group chats, and Zoom calls etc to keep furloughed colleagues engaged and motivated.
Working colleagues had to balance family life and home schooling whilst often being at work more than at home. Those travelling to work on public transport had to overcome their fears or turn to taxis, with staff feeling a sense of relief once the journey was completed.
Elsewhere, there has been the tough job of making redundancies – a heart-breaking process causing many sleepless nights.
Despite all these challenges, housekeepers at these hotels continued to deliver the best standards possible, helping create exceptional and memorable experiences, resulting in great comments on social media and the raising of Trip Advisor scores.
Throughout this difficult period, housekeeping has been recognized as a positive influence in maintaining business as usual and providing customer confidence. We’ve learnt to communicate by smiling with our eyes, while wearing masks.
We are now preparing for hotels to fully re-open from 17 May, when hygiene and safety procedures within the industry will be under the microscope. Thorough and frequent cleaning will be paramount to ensure both guests and team members feel safe in your establishment.
So now is an excellent time to applaud these housekeeping and hospitality heroes and thank them for their amazing dedication and resilience in looking after both colleagues and guests and preventing the spread of Covid 19, with many still finding time to support worthy causes including cancer research and Hospitality Action.
APPG to make a major contribution to the cleaning and hygiene sector
By Jim Melvin, Deputy Chairman, British Cleaning Council
(This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in March)
We were all delighted and very proud when the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cleaning and Hygiene was inaugurated last month.
It is a major development for the UK’s cleaning and hygiene industry. The APPG will make a significant contribution to the sector and it was for that reason that all of the BCC team have been working hard for months to get this off the ground.
As part of the approach, the BCC identified MPs with cleaning and hygiene businesses in their constituencies and we worked with our member organisations as well as local companies in the industry to reach out to them. I truly want to thank everyone who helped with this outreach as your assistance has been invaluable.
It has been particularly pleasing to see how receptive and supportive MPs have been to this idea.
To have 53 MPs join from all six major parties, along with three members of the House of Lords, is an incredible start and extremely encouraging.
I want to profusely thank all the Parliamentarians who have given their support, including APPG co-chairs Nigel Mills, MP for Amber Valley in Derbyshire, and The Baroness Greengross, OBE, and all the Vice-Chairs.
Two other Lords have pledged their support, the former CEO of Mitie Group PLC, The Baroness McGregor-Smith, CBE, and the former Chancellor, The Rt Hon the Lord Lamont of Lerwick.
Other well-known supporters include former Chief Secretary to the Treasury The Rt Hon Stephen Timms, former Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care Stephen Hammond, former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions The Rt Hon Damien Green, former Minister of State for Prisons Crispin Blunt and former Labour Party Assistant Whip Siobhain McDonagh.
Government ministers can’t take part in APPGs but having such strong experience to draw on will be a huge help.
I think this response from MPs demonstrates that many already recognise the importance of the sector and the essential role our personnel play, particularly in fighting the current pandemic.
The cleaning and hygiene sector, which employs 1.63m people and has a turnover of £54.4bn, simply must have a voice in Parliament, like many of the UK’s other big sectors.
The APPG will help ensure that MPs, ministers and Government are aware of the vital work we do and ensure the sector has a say in decisions that affect us.
The challenges posed by Coronavirus pandemic and the industry’s role in fighting it has been primary in encouraging us to pursue the setting up of an APPG.
In particular, the need for more recognition for the work of industry personnel as key and essential workers, not only cleaning and hygiene operatives but all of our colleagues who work in other facets of the industry and are essential in deliveries, maintenance and a variety of other roles.
There are many things we’d like to see the APPG and its members pursue, but some immediate targets include:
- as stated, recognition of the cleaning and hygiene industry and staff as being key and essential workers
- the adoption and recognition of universal training and accreditation in cleaning and hygiene across the UK
- promotion of the real Living Wage in the sector
- advocacy of best practice in mental health and mental health awareness
- full adherence to the Modern Slavery Act and zero tolerance of non-compliance
- and engagement with the UK Government to accelerate progress towards sustainability and environmental targets
MPs will choose their own agenda and priorities, but as the secretariat for the APPG, the BCC will work with them to support and advise them.
We got off to a great start and that is what it was – a start! Now the hard work begins and so we have to roll up our sleeves, maintain the initial impetus and begin the work of getting goals achieved.
Reflections on cleaning in a pandemic: a local authority Pperspective
By Pat Wherton, General Secretary of the Association of Building Cleaning Direct Service Providers (ABCD)
(This article was first published in Cleaning and Maintenance in March)
The cleaning industry, with its turnover of over £54bn and workforce of 1.63 million people, is without doubt a vital part of the UK economy, and anyone who had to be convinced of that must surely now be converted, as the UK has faced the Covid-19 pandemic and effective cleaning has been at the forefront of fighting back against the virus.
For local authorities across the UK, there have been real challenges as services already stretched by years of austerity were called upon to respond quickly to each new phase of the national restrictions.
Council cleaning teams were delivering food parcels to the clinically vulnerable at the height of the first lockdown, helping with staff in care homes as the virus took its toll, and had to carry letters from employers, certifying their status as essential workers, as police spot checks were instigated. Often these checks were in the early hours of the morning when most other people are still asleep.
Cleaning operatives couldn’t work from home, and unless they had health conditions that forced isolation, they continued to provide an essential service in public buildings.
Cam Adamson, of North Yorkshire Council, has described the shortages of materials experienced by local authorities, the resilience in service delivery needed as gloves, spray bottles and some chemicals were difficult to source, and councils having to become much more flexible in their approach to these changes in the traditional ways of working.
Rochdale is proud of the fact that no staff were furloughed, and indeed new cleaning contracts have been secured as they and many other councils have been able to show their abilities to deal with the crisis and to gain the confidence of customers.
Perhaps the biggest challenge shared by many was the reopening of schools, and the special arrangements needed to ensure that they were able to support the Government’s aim to keep them open.
As we know, that couldn’t be sustained, and now we have schools still open, but only for vulnerable pupils and the children of essential workers.
Meanwhile, the cleaning continues, and this time with the problem of staff needing to cover for sick, isolating, or positive-tested staff. The logistics of finding cleaning operatives still at work, able and willing to go to multiple sites is one of many managerial challenges.
Head teachers were rightly concerned that everyone involved in keeping the schools open had to take all the necessary precautions and this includes the cleaning staff.
Cleaning teams in Rotherham report arranging shifts to start at 3am so that schools can be confident that all possible steps are taken to make the premises ‘Covid secure’ and that families can send their children to a place of relative safety.
Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) is helping with this. Now that these are available we can have some degree of confidence, within 30 minutes, that any of the staff on duty are Covid negative, and even this has brought a new issue for cleaning teams to deal with.
Where LFT centres are set up, the very equipment required brings its own risks. Decisions have had to be made, and actions taken, to dispose of the PPE and the used kits and swabs in all of the locations.
Cleaning teams are needed to move in at the end of the LFT centre’s day, usually after 9pm, and to have everything cleaned and ready to reopen first thing the following morning. Whatever activity we start, it always ends with the cleaning teams.
Winter also brought an additional challenge. Keeping roads open and other support services running added to the strains of Covid-19. Some ABCD member authorities have had socially distanced events to acknowledge the efforts of the cleaning teams.
Cleaning continues as it always has done – in the background, holding it all together, and often invisible.