Knowing what we know...

13th of February 2018 Article by Lynn Webster
Knowing what we know...

From the UK, Lynn Webster reports on recent studies into growth and future challenges for the sector.

Growth is our industry’s watchword, experienced by many and confirmed by the recently published British Cleaning Council (BCC) 2017 research report. The availability of concrete data enables effective decision-making and future planning, and can help to bolster industry confidence and foster resilience. The report cites 9.5  per cent future workforce projections for the period 2014 to 2024, a figure exceeding UK economic growth by four per cent (UKCES, 2016).  This is a fundamental indicator of the value of the industry to the economy overall.

The 9.5 per cent employment growth figures breaks down as 84,000 new jobs, jobs needed to facilitate and support predicted growth, in addition to replacement jobs. The stark realities of these figures are already with us, as the industry experiences a human resource capacity shortfall at all occupational levels. The future EU situation is one of uncertainty in terms of how UK employers will ultimately be affected. However, the cleaning industry is more exposed than most to the human resource challenges ahead.

According to the BCC report foreign born workers make up an average of 23 per cent of the UK cleaning workforce, higher than the national workforce average of 17 per cent. This more than doubles in London (68 per cent) and the south east, areas with a predominantly migrant workforce in comparison to Wales nine per cent, Scotland 10 per cent and north east 13 per cent.

The stark realities of political, regional and economic factors remain, and the current uncertainty focuses on the time sensitive question of employee availability with no obvious solutions in sight. Discouraged by the fall in the Pound against the Euro, opportunities to help support families ‘back home’ are reduced so the attraction of UK working diminishes. In the face of such uncertainty we must acknowledge that human resources will remain a constant challenge.

The issues of employee attraction and retention, equipping employees with the skills and the wherewithal to work safely and effectively, do not change. The pool of potential workers has been shrinking for some time, but now this pool is set to shrink still further. Perceptions of the industry do nothing to ease the problems.

The public at large tends to perceive cleaning in negative terms and recent press coverage has done little to improve this picture. In 2014 the Equality and Human Rights Commission reported cleaning operatives feeling that a lack of dignity and respect blighted daily working life; would most cleaning operatives report differently today?

Debates around deregulation and employee rights cause concern in some quarters, debates which at their worst, can lead to inaction and service suffers. The industry needs to act proactively, and examine how different businesses have responded to and tackled these matters, identifying possibly radical methods for facing the future head-on.

Only by asking the questions, “how have the critical issues affecting cleaning been successfully managed?”, and “which aspects can we adapt and adopt to suit our own circumstances?” can we weather the never-ending storms of the 21st century.

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