Are Cleaners Key Workers?

In a story covered by both sector news and the international press, after months of discussion and campaigning, the question still looms over the industry- are cleaners key workers?

This debate may seem almost outdated now, with people from all professions returning to work the value of key workers in our society is soon to be lost once more. But, in our opinion, the debate should continue for three key reasons:

  1. Should there be an unfortunate second peak of infections, necessitating a strict lockdown, where do cleaners stand?
  2. The value of the sector has been deemed ‘unessential’, which is a shocking revelation during a pandemic which relies on cleaners to allow other industries to continue and (most importantly) keep people healthy
  3. Cleaners have been putting their health at risk for months and deserve recognition and support for their sacrifices

The current list of key workers include those working in: health and social care, childcare, key public servants, government employees, and utility workers amongst others.

The British Cleaning Council (BCC) has been urging the UK government to name cleaners as key workers to ensure their contributions are recognised. In the interim, companies were advised to write letters of proof in case cleaners were stopped by police whilst travelling to and from work (as several of our employees were). These letters are also intended to be used to convince schools to accept cleaner’s children whilst they were only open for key workers.

A number of cleaners across the country were told to go home whilst travelling to work as they did not constitute ‘key workers’. Thankfully this did not apply to Ikon staff as we put the correct procedures in place, however many organisations were not prepared which resulted in a loss of cleaning for that day. This lack of accreditation is dangerous- cleaners are an integral part of keeping environments safe from Covid-19. As mentioned in our last blog, government guidance highlights the importance of regular and thorough cleaning in combating the spread of the virus. The contradiction between this guidance and not crediting cleaners as key workers is confusing to say the least. 

This is not to suggest that cleaners are any more important as other groups, the government definition is not a finite list and we wouldn’t be bumping doctors off it to include cleaners. There is frankly no logic to exclude cleaners from this group. See the following exchange from PMQs:

Jeremy Corbyn (former leader of the Opposition)- “I’d like to pay special mention to one group that are hugely ignored, forgotten and decried as unskilled workers – cleaners. All around the country and in this building, (they) are doing their best to keep our places hygienic and safe. “

(In response) Prime Minister: “I agree with him very much about what he said about cleaners, they do an extraordinary job and they deserve all the protection and support we can give them in this difficult time.”

Surely all the “protection and support” that can be offered would come from allowing cleaners the space to undertake their roles, and have appropriate recognition for their efforts in this fight.

We stand with the BCC and urge the government to accept that cleaners are key workers. With 5% of the population of the UK making up the industry, the loss of our service would have a huge impact on daily life.

We have value.

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