Flexi cleaning on the road to success

6th of December 2023 Article by Lotte Printz
Flexi cleaning on the road to success

ECJ's Lotte Printz takes another look at the flexible market meeting Flex-job cleaner Tora Kerstens in Denmark.

One Monday morning at 8 o'clock, yours truly arrive at the old building where I used to study journalism. A building now a community and conference centre run by Skejby Rangers.

It may sound like it, but this is not a football club, nor is my visit a trip down memory lane. I'm here to meet 54-year-old Tora Kerstens who starts her working day at the premises where Skejby Rangers, her current employer, resides. And these days, I'm the odd one out!

"I figured you were you!," Tora says with a warm smile entering the lunchroom in a yellow, luminous vest over a green t-shirt with a Skejby Rangers logo. Her bubbly energy and vigour fill the room, and as we make our way towards the storage, where she is to fetch cleaning supplies for her working day, Tora also reveals a talkative nature, and that there's more to her than meets the eye.

Two years ago, she was diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Order) and granted what is called a ‘Flex-job' in Denmark. A scheme introduced in 1997 for those who are unable to work full-time on ordinary terms due to mental or physical challenges for example, but who are far too well to receive early medical retirement benefits.

An employer pays for the actual hours the people in flexible employment work, and the local authority then tops up to what amounts to full-time pay in that particular job. After a working life of several, often short-termed jobs mainly in accounts and bookkeeping, Tora is now working 4 hours three days a week - as a cleaner.

"I've been struggling with low self-esteem my whole life and for years I was extremely good at adapting to the wishes and terms of others. In the end causing too much strain on my brain which was already overloaded," Tora explains.

Now this Flex-job as a cleaner, most days in the shared facilities at a place for refugees, helps her get out of bed and brings her a sense of success. She may still be tired, strained even, after her day cleaning, but her 12-hour working week allows a life outside of work and ‘time-outs'.

"It's great to make my own money and to feel I contribute rather than receiving full-time benefits."

"I have an eye for detail and for the standards required. And even though my CV may tell people otherwise, I need a job like this where 95 per cent is routine," Tora points out.

For one of Tora's colleagues, it's quite the opposite, and it's important to understand and find the individual strengths and needs of the people in flexible employment, while still being flexible towards the customers, Mia Skovgaard, working in marketing for Skejby Rangers, explains.

"A Flex-job is not a job title! Yet, there is still a lot of prejudice in the labour market about people in Flex-jobs. A low IQ being one of them. So, at the end of meetings with potential customers, I often spring on them, matter-of-factly, that I too have a Flex-job," she says smiling.

To make it easier for companies to take on people in Flex-jobs, Skejby Rangers manages all the paperwork and dealings with the local authorities and the people are on Skejby Rangers' payroll, currently 16 employees taken on for their drive rather than qualifications.

"Our employees fulfil facility service tasks, among others, that companies need done. We are not a charity, mind you! And we don't want pity. But we do hope that in the end, the companies see the value and the idea of taking on an employee in a Flex-job themselves," Mia specifies.

As for the future of Tora Kerstens, there's one more thing she could wish for workwise. She would love to become more professional in her current line of work and learn cleaning techniques that could help herself and make cleaning more efficient.

Unfortunately, this might be one of the shortcomings of the Flex-job scheme. It doesn't really seem to allow for people like Tora to receive supplementary training that may exceed the hours of their working week.

Let this be an eye-opener for flexibility in this respect, too.

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