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All change in the cleaning and hygiene industry

All change in the cleaning and hygiene industry
Simon Hollingbery, Company Secretary at the British Cleaning Council, discusses the profound impact COVID-19 has had on the cleaning sector, as well as the recent establishment of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for cleaning.
The past two years have seen major developments in the cleaning and hygiene industry. Part of this has been down to the huge impact the awful experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the sector and the UK generally. 
Despite the fact that our sector employs 1.47 million people and is one of the ten biggest in the country, before the pandemic it was often described as ‘invisible’. 
Since then, the public’s attitude towards cleanliness and the work of cleaning and hygiene staff has been transformed.  
My cleaning and hygiene colleagues have played an essential role throughout the pandemic, keeping key sectors going such as healthcare, social care, education, key public services, local and national Government, the transport network, supermarkets and the food supply chain. 
Staff working in the manufacture and supply of products such as masks and hand sanitiser also had a key role to play. 
Sector personnel have bravely worked on the frontline to protect the health and safety of others and consistently gone above and beyond to deal with increased workloads due to extra protocols processes designed to protect people from the virus. 
Once the UK finally recovers from the pandemic, thanks to the lessons we have learnt about the importance of cleanliness and hygiene over the last two years, I think the role of the cleaning and hygiene sector and its staff in maintaining clean, sanitised and safe premises and environments will continue to be vital.
I expect to see a larger investment in cleaning programmes throughout the UK with enhanced specifications and more frequent schedules for years to come, in order to meet the public’s expectations of continuing high standards. 
We have been very concerned in recent months about the severe staff shortages which have put a huge extra burden on many sector personnel. 
Recruiting into the cleaning and hygiene industry became more difficult following Brexit, as tighter immigration rules restricted many overseas workers from entry, resulting in widespread vacancies.  
As a result, we have seen cleaning hygiene colleagues stretched to breaking point, covering for absent colleagues as they strive to keep key sectors going, protect people’s health and stop the virus spreading. I cannot praise our heroic cleaning workforce enough. 
Another key development was the inauguration of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry in February last year, in what was an historic day for our sector. 
The BCC pushed for the establishment of the APPG, with tactics such as asking industry employers and member organisations to contact their local MP in support. 
We also hired Stephen Kerr, the former MP for Stirling who has since become an MSP, to coordinate lobbying for the APPG, setting it up and using his connections to attract supportive MPs to join. 
As a result, a total of 53 MPs and three Members of the House of Lords joined the group and it has representatives from all six major parties, making it one of the bigger and most credible APPGs.
The APPG will help make policy-makers aware of the vital work our sector does and ensure the sector’s voice is heard in decisions that affect it. 
An industry of such large scale and huge importance as the cleaning and hygiene sector needs to have this kind of representation in Parliament.
The APPG agreed to lobby Government on key industry issues including:
  • Recognition of the essential role of cleaning and hygiene personnel, including their vital and skilled role in the fight against Covid-19 and all other forms of contagion.
  • Promotion of the real Living Wage on the basis that a fair day’s work merits a fair day’s pay and is recognition of training and skills achieved.
  • Advocacy of best practice in mental health and mental health awareness as part of employee care and well-being.
In addition, since late last year, we have been seeking to highlight the severe staff shortages for which we urgently need Government help.
Progress on some of these key areas has been slower than we would have liked but we are determined to achieve our key strategic objectives, so we are currently rethinking our approach. 
One area where excellent progress has been made is the drive to create an accredited industry-wide training programme and apprenticeship for the whole sector. 
There is currently no apprenticeship scheme which provides the training in technical skills needed by cleaning and hygiene operatives working outside health care.
This leaves many cleaning and hygiene sector employers with no suitable option for investing Apprenticeship Levy funds on training staff.
The creation of an apprenticeship programme for our sector is a hugely important initiative which will ensure that staff have the skills needed to work in an increasingly technical and professional industry and will help create a career pathway so we can attract the new entrants we need. The idea has been overwhelmingly supported by BCC members and employers. 
So we were delighted to see the recent publication of the first draft of proposals for a Cleaning Hygiene Operative apprenticeship, which was drawn up by a Trailblazer group sponsored by the BCC. 
It is hard to believe that so much has happened in the industry in such as short period. 
  Simon will be speaking about the creation of the APPG for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry at the APSE Facilities Management, Catering and Cleaning Seminar 2022 in Nottingham on 3 March. Click here to book your place.


Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.






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