Stan Atkins, group chief executive officer of the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) (pictured), has issued the following message to clarify the institute's messaging around the COVID-19 crisis:
"On Monday the 23 March I wrote to BICSc members explaining what steps we have taken to keep the Institute operational during this time of uncertainty. We have had numerous responses, in the main from cleaning operatives expressing their concern about their employment and how it is affected under the current circumstances. As CEO of the British Institute of Cleaning Science I need to clarify matters:
Point 1 – The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) is a membership, training and standards organisation, not a government lobbying group.
The British Institute of Cleaning Science is the largest independent, professional and educational body within the cleaning industry with over 40,000 Individual and corporate members in the UK and internationally.
To raise the standards of education and to build awareness of the cleaning industry through professional standards and accredited training, thereby;
- Protecting the Operative
- Providing a Clean and Safe Environment
- Preserving Assets
- Promoting Sustainability
- Producing Best Practice
Point 2 – The British Cleaning Council (BCC) is 'The Voice of the Industry'. BICSc is an active member of the BCC and continues to support and promote its key priorities, which include:
- Raising professional standards
- Employee health and wellbeing
- Career development and training
- Improved quality control and better procurement practices
- Committed to promoting higher levels of cleaning and hygiene across all environments – commercial, domestic and public
The British Cleaning Council has this week released the following information:
'If you provide a service to an institution or business that is classified as critical, necessary and relevant (Cleaning Provision in hospitals; social care; courts; government estate; supermarkets and the food supply chain; the transport network; national infrastructure and utilities), and their employees are classified as ‘Key Worker’ and the services you provide is required to enable them to continue to function safely it means your staff are also deemed to be part of the ‘Key Worker’ group. This is because without your support/services these critical functions may not be able to operate.'
It has been clear to me for many years that the work cleaning operatives carry out is only recognised when it is not being done, or when there is a higher demand. Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus the demand for cleaning is higher than ever, particularly within health and social care settings.
I’ve previously written articles on how people working within our industry are viewed - one was entitled 'Making the invisible, visible'. People working within the cleaning sector are one of, if not the most, invisible of all workforces.
The specific concerns raised with us (BICSc) by email over the last few days, are as follows:
Question from Cleaning Operative A:
'Do you know if cleaners are classed as key workers? If not, what’s being done to make the Government aware of how important we are to the society at the moment, and how challenging it is for us to be doing our cleaning jobs during these times? It’s a big issue to all of us and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, at the moment we haven’t got staff to go to work to those key workers premises as our staff are not also key workers. Our staff who aren’t key workers don’t want to go to work as they don’t think it’s necessary to travel, and the other challenge is child-care and public transport to get to work as it is serving key workers only, what shall we do?'
Question from Cleaning Company A:
'What can we do to help with the lobbying for key worker status for cleaners? I am sure other people feel the same way and would want to help support BICSc.'
Question from Cleaning Company B:
'I really appreciate your time to respond to our concerns in regard to key workers and especially in this time when everyone should be coming together in this sector. We feel as a business, and concerns from our staff and businesses we service, is that we are front line in order to eliminate the virus. We look after schools, nurseries, pubs, GP surgeries etc…. and they still require our services for deep cleans, infection control, decontamination etc…. and we need to be able to receive the PPE, consumables, and be able to work in these very difficult times when our customers look to us for support and guidance. We have been speaking to MPs and they are trying to get these concerns to the relevant Ministers and waiting on a response. I would like to point out that it is the individual employer’s responsibility to show a duty of care to their staff.'
Part of the problem is that the industry does not have a Standard Industry Code (SIC) - this means that the central Government does not see us as an industry in our own right.
Finally, we endorse the BCC’s statement that those engaged with providing services and support to the known key workers should be classed the same as that of key workers. The sensible solution would be to class us as essential support for key workers. We will continue to offer updates and share information as soon as it becomes available.