Taylor Review signals good news for the cleaning industry

25th of April 2018 Article by Simon Freer
Taylor Review signals good news for the cleaning industry

Simon Freer, managing director of SAF Cleaning in the UK, looks at a recent review of employment practices and the potentially positive outcomes for the cleaning sector.

According to government figures, 15 per cent of UK workers are self-employed, according to figures published in October 2017. For the cleaning industry this figure is likely to be very high, contract cleaning especially depends on self-employed staff.

Around the same time as these figures were published, the government also announced the largest ever review of employment practices in the UK, headed by Lord Taylor. Triggered by all the publicity surrounding ‘gig economy' working, its aim is to understand how employment should be defined in the future and how workers should be protected with basic rights.

As an industry, cleaning has been a ‘gig economy' for decades. Relying on sub contracting services out to self employed staff isn't new for us, but high profile business models like Uber and Deliveroo have brought the issue into the spotlight.

Although what's being reviewed isn't new, it will mean that a lot of cleaning companies will need to rethink their policies and the way they run their businesses. All the workers who are officially self-employed but reliant upon one income source may need to be re-classified as ‘dependent contractors'.

They will start to have more rights, like an entitlement to the minimum wage, sickness and holiday pay, pensions and other benefits. A lot of companies will be advised to extend their rates to meet the national living wage at least. It's going to have many financial implications for all the cleaning companies relying on self employed contractors that don't attract employer's NICs or other costs.

I run a cleaning business covering the Surrey and South London area in the UK and believe the Taylor Review is a positive development. It will force us all to examine how workers are classified and I've already started to review how I'm running my own company. I'm changing the way I use contractors and many of my cleaning operatives will become employees.

It's going to be more costly initially, because I want to pay my people the living wage and I also want to offer them some prospects if working they for me, with professional training and development.

Overall, I think it will be worth the investment. Everyone needs to earn a decent living wage or they cannot afford to live in the area. It's about balance - finding decent staff and being able to pay them a decent rate and finding customers willing to pay a rate that pays for this and allows me to run a sustainable business that brings in a reasonable a profit. That way everyone in the team benefits.

Having started out as a self employed cleaner myself, I know what it's like to have no rights and to suffer the consequences of being powerless in this situation. Long term, although my operational costs might initially be higher, it's ultimately going to mean I can offer a much better service and attract better clients.

Bringing people onto the payroll or redefining them as dependent contractors as suggested in the Taylor Review will create a stronger team spirit, people will have to adhere to my company values and philosophy. I can start to build a stronger brand. When you are dealing with subcontractors, it is difficult to control them and you don't always get the commitment you would like.

I can also start to branch out into offering more specialist cleaning services, like soft washing with biocides and environmentally friendly services, because I can bank on more commitment from my staff, specify exactly how they work, the products they use and provide them with specialist training. This is something that's harder to do when you rely on outsourced contracts to do the work.

I can only speak for myself, but as a contract cleaning company owner talking to others in my position, if you can start employ people directly and give them the wages and rights they are entitled to, then you should. The whole industry needs to act responsibly and provide proper development opportunities for their staff.

Some people might not want to be employed directly and you can't force them to change, but having a core team, built up of loyal employees is important for any firm with ambitions to succeed in the service industry. So, I welcome the Taylor Review and think of it as a very helpful trigger to re-evaluate how I'm running my business.



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