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Mistreatment of Britain’s “invisible workforce”

According to a recent report, cleaners working in British offices, hotels and public places are regularly subject to bullying, discrimination and under-payment. Almost half a million people work as non-domestic contract cleaners in the UK, in an industry that has an annual turnover of £8 billion.

The investigation began last year by The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who looked into the industry and gathered evidence from cleaners, cleaning firms, trade bodies and businesses.

Mark Hammond, the chief executive of the EHRC said "Workers do not have their employment rights upheld… They may be bullied or discriminated against by supervisors, experience problems obtaining their pay, have excessive workloads and are not treated with dignity or respect. Often this can be linked to procurement practices which focus mainly on reducing cost and overlook the negative impact this can have on staff turnover, absenteeism, productivity and the quality of service delivery."

The report, The Invisible Workforce, found that "significant numbers of cleaners said they received no support when they complained of being harassed or bullied and some said they were punished with extra work for raising concerns". The outsourcing of cleaning services has led to a "downward pressure on wages and working conditions", it added.

The study found that 446,000 people work within this sector, which is predominantly staffed by women, migrants and older workers. The study also highlighted that hotel cleaners are often set an unrealistic target for the rooms they have to clean per hour, which results in them being paid less than the minimum wage.

Many employers do not provide adequate facilities for cleaning staff to take breaks, and some employers use the language barrier as an excuse not to pay migrant workers in full. The report stated "Migrant workers’ lack of awareness of employment rights and poor language skills left them particularly vulnerable to mistreatment."

Following the report, myHRdept would remind all employers that they need to consider the action they can take to ensure contract staff, such as cleaners are treated with the same dignity and respect as their own workforce and customers. They could after all be vicariously liable for any mistreatment of such workers by their own staff.

If a bullying, harassment, victimisation or discrimination-related dispute is apparent amongst anyone within your workforce (or an incident reported) please contact us straight away. As an employer, you are responsible to ensure this applies to the treatment of clients, customers and members of the public who have dealings with the Company and its employees.

If you require further information around bullying and harassment, or are thinking of outsourcing your HR, why not contact myhrdept.co.uk. With full service Premium Plus packages for medium sized companies typically from only a few hundred per month (and from only £100 per month for smaller companies and start-ups) and fixed price HR support options available for one-off issues, we believe we offer the best combination of quality and price available in the UK. Call us on 01628 820515 to discuss your requirements or email us here and we’ll call you back.