The British Cleaning Council and members write monthly columns for both Cleaning and Maintenance and Tomorrow’s Cleaning magazines. You can read recent columns below.
BCC warns about the potential impact of staff shortages
By Jim Melvin, Chairman of the British Cleaning Council (BCC) (This article was first published in Tomorrow’s Cleaning in Dec)
The British Cleaning Council and member associations are increasingly concerned about the problems the cleaning and hygiene sector faces in recruiting new members of staff.
I have rarely known it to be as hard as it has been recently to recruit cleaning and hygiene staff. We have heard from many industry colleagues expressing growing frustration, worry and alarm about the recruitment issues faced.
Therefore, in order to properly gauge the scale of the staffing issues, the BCC surveyed a number of sector companies on this topic. These companies included some of the cleaning and hygiene industry’s biggest firms, employing tens of thousands of staff in total.
The findings of this survey confirmed our worst fears, with initial trends showing that the cleaning and hygiene industry is suffering severe staff shortages, with the rate of vacancies having increased dramatically over recent months.
The firms reported a picture of a staggering 1,917 vacancies in total, with an average vacancy rate of almost eight percent. Two of the SMEs advised that the number of vacancies had increased by 252 percent and 267 percent in the last six months!
A significant number of the companies taking part reported reasons for leaving including increased numbers of foreign nationals returning home, employees moving to other jobs such as truck driving or in hospitality, as well as rates of pay and recognition.
The cleaning and hygiene industry has traditionally employed staff of all nationalities and as such overseas workers continue to be difficult to replace. Historically, UK nationals have not joined the industry and there is nothing to suggest that this will immediately change.
It should be a major concern that this comes at a vital stage in the nation’s fight against the Coronavirus pandemic, with rates of infection relatively high.
Considering the vital role sector staff play in keeping businesses, supermarkets, hospitals and clinics, schools, care homes and public buildings free from the virus, it is not a stretch to see that such staff shortages could potentially derail the nation’s recovery from Covid-19.
We fear that the healthcare sector could be badly affected with education, transport, leisure, food hygiene, and many other sectors also being badly hit.
The recruitment issue was predictable. Prior to the pandemic, we raised concerns about the impact of the immigration act making it much harder for the industry to recruit overseas staff. To date these concerns have not been heeded.
The cleaning and hygiene industry could be a career of choice if we could offer an industry-wide accredited apprenticeship. We recently had good news from The Institute of Apprenticeships that we were being recommended to go forward to the final hurdle in gaining an apprenticeship for commercial cleaning. If successful, this will change the current non-accredited position, but it will take time.
Therefore, we have launched a campaign advising the Government about the scale of the problems faced and the hygiene issues that may affect the country as a result.
We are urgently calling on the Government to work with us to ensure we have a short-term and long-term strategy to negate recruitment issues. This would include a short-term approach to the immediate problem, whilst planning a long-term partnership process with a skills pathway making the industry an attractive career choice, including all aspects of technology, science and innovation.
We require Government to recognise the skilled and essential frontline role of cleaning and hygiene personnel across the sector. As a result, we maintain our approach of getting these issues onto the national news agenda. As examples, we recently held a face-to-face meeting with MPs on this subject and other key issues, met the Home Office and are talking to Radio 4 about the recruitment issue. We now want to drive actions.
You can be assured that we will continue to work hard in highlighting such issues and ensure the voice of the industry remains loud and clear.
Sustainable textiles: TSA launches scheme to halt annual waste of 30 million textile pieces
By David Stevens, CEO of the TSA (Textile Services Association). (This article was first published in Cleaning and Maintenance in December)
BCC member the TSA (Textile Services Association) is calling for industry to work with them in order to improve the recycling of textiles. Every year over 30 million textile items, including sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases and towels, are thrown away by the hospitality industry alone. This equates to over 7000 tonnes, the majority of which ends up in landfill or incinerators. Meanwhile the cloth that actually does get reused often only gets one additional use cycle, as rags in sites such as garages, before being dumped.
Initially the TSA is focusing on hospitality since textile waste from this industry is ideal for recycling, as it is predominantly made of natural fibres, and white. Last year the TSA set up a project to research potential recycling solutions for the hospitality industry in association with Swedish company Södra, which has pioneered a method that takes end of life cotton textiles and re-engineers them into a pulp that can be used to spin cotton fibre yarns. A test shipment was sent to them to determine how suitable it will be for use in the UK, with very positive results.
Members of the TSA are well positioned to facilitate the recycling of textiles. Over 90% of hotels in the UK are serviced by TSA members, which will enable them to easily handle the logistics of the proposed recycling scheme. So far TSA members have been very enthusiastic about the potential for them to help industries reducing waste and improving sustainability.
Following the success of the Swedish tests, the TSA has teamed up with UK textile recycling specialist Reskinned to launch a circular collection system. Participating laundries simply bag up the end of life textiles and add a collection barcode verifying the weight. The sacks are delivered to Reskinned, either by the laundry itself or using a courier such as DPD. At the Reskinned hub the textiles are verified, sorted and bailed for onward processing. The laundries are paid the market rate for the textiles, minus Reskinned’s operating costs.
The TSA is hoping to extend the scheme to other textiles and industries. It is currently in talks with UKHospitality about the possibility of including staff uniforms in the scheme, which account for an additional four million items annually. Recycling uniforms is more complex as they often use a mix of different materials and accessories that require separation first. Going forward, designing uniforms for recycling is one of the solutions being discussed.
Kate Nicholls OBE, Chief Executive of UK Hospitality, is an enthusiastic supporter of the textile recycling scheme: “We are delighted to be working with the TSA on their recycling project and it compliments perfectly our current campaign of Net Zero Carbon by 2030.”
At the TSA we believe the scheme represents a win-win for the environment, as not only are landfill use and incineration reduced, but also there is less need for new cotton. It’s estimated that 20,000 litres of water are required for every kilo of cotton grown, not forgetting the risks of fertiliser run-off. Anything that reduces the impact this crop has must be good.
With more companies and business sectors looking for innovative ways to reduce their environmental impact the time is right to consider bold and innovative solutions to the larger issues they face. The TSA appreciates any feedback and comments on the scheme and would also welcome more stakeholders, from other industries, coming forward to discuss the individual needs of their businesses and the potential to extend the scheme.
For more information about the TSA recycling scheme, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The TSA is the trade association for the textile care services industry. The TSA represent commercial laundry and textile rental businesses. Membership ranges from family-run operations through to large, multi-national companies. Visit www.tsa-uk.org for more information.