The British Cleaning Council (BCC) has warned that ongoing staff shortages affecting the £59bn cleaning, hygiene and waste sector could exacerbate any ‘twindemic’ of covid and flu this winter.
The combination of the recruitment crisis and the resurgence of flu and coronavirus cases could lead to the reduction of public spaces being free of viruses putting more people at risk in the colder months ahead.
The cleaning, hygiene and waste sector one of the ten biggest industries in the UK has played a vital role in keeping people safe, healthy, and well during the Covid-19 pandemic so far, but that work could be hampered by the 18-month-long staffing crisis.
The REC Labour Market Tracker showed in July that the number of job postings for cleaning staff increased by 11 per cent in just one week, a higher rate than for nurses, care workers or primary school teachers. Calls for the Government help to alleviate the recruitment crisis has been ongoing over the last 12 months, when immigration rules were tightened early last year.
In March, the BCC launched the ‘We Clean, We Care’ campaign to reflect the pride that staff have in their vital role.
BCC Chairman Jim Melvin said: “Once again we repeat that we need the Government to recognise the sector’s frontline role and step in to help us deal with these severe staff shortages.
“It is arguably true that time and action was lost in the pandemic and there was a lack of clear direction. We will never know as to whether a speedier approach could have helped to save or assist more people.
“Therefore, do not make the same mistakes and if Covid and flu do significantly increase this winter as the UKHSA are now clearly and publicly warning and this is heightened by the fact that cleaning personnel are unable to fulfil their vital role of keeping people safe, healthy and well because of widespread vacancies, the Government cannot say that they were not warned.
“The existing recruitment crisis could be further exacerbated by employee absences as staff themselves become ill.
“The sector’s skilled, professional staff are responsible for maintaining high standards of cleanliness and hygiene in hospitals and healthcare facilities, public transport, factories, workplaces, supermarkets and almost every other public building and facility.
“Any individual entering these busy facilities and touching surfaces could easily pass on a virus to other people if good standards of cleaning and hygiene are not maintained because of the lack of personnel.
“We’ve been trying to engage the Government on this issue but they simply haven’t listened or engaged with us. I can’t believe that they simply don’t care, but this can’t go on and with winter approaching and flu and Covid on the horizon, it is now extremely urgent.
“The poultry, truck driving and fruit picking sectors all received Government help over the last year or so. Cleaning and hygiene has a direct effect on the public and therefore the economy, so it’s a very straightforward question and one that should concern members of the general public as to why the cleaning and hygiene sector being is consistently ignored?”
Richard Onions, Ezitracker Customer Success Manager said:
“During the pandemic, cleaning and hygiene staff were quickly viewed as key workers when their focus was to ensure workplaces and public areas and buildings remained virus-free and safe to use. Cleaning hours changed almost overnight and new working practices were introduced to help keep the virus at bay.
It’s widely publicised that prior to the change in immigration rules, *20% of the cleaning industry workforce across the UK were from overseas, which rose to 55% in London. We welcome a review in the whole recruitment process, but with the emphasis on skills and training and surrounding attitudes both cultural and social to maintain and retain staff who carry out such critical work.”