Blog: The real Living Wage in the Cleaning Industry by Sarah Aoki, Perfect Cleaning Solutions

08 March 2023

Perfect Cleaning Solutions Limited is a West Lothian and Edinburgh based commercial cleaning company. They were a finalist in the Living Wage Scotland Awards 2022 in the newcomer category. In this blog, Managing Director, Sarah Aoki discusses the importance of paying the real Living Wage for workers in the cleaning industry. 

The cleaning industry is traditionally a female-dominated industry and always has been a low-paid occupation.

At Perfect Cleaning Solutions Limited, we do have a lot of female employees, in fact, 90% of our employees are women. These women are students, wives, mums and grandmothers. A lot of mums chose to work with us in the evening when they can get their spouses or their extended family members to look after the kids. They often work until late at night.

So, what does it mean for them to be hired by a Living Wage Employer?

A simple calculation, if they work around 100 hours a month, they would be getting over £100 more if they were paid the Living Wage (LW) as opposed to getting paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW). (£9.50 NMW £10.90 LW) This can mean a lot to them. This might mean that they can treat their kids to something nice, enjoy more family trips or perhaps allow them to save that extra money.

Our mission is to “Provide a safe and fair workplace to all of our staff”. This does not mean only at the workplace. They need to feel safe at home and feel like they are getting a fair deal by working with us. By joining the Living Wage Foundation, we can now further our mission and provide our staff with a happy, safe, and fair workplace where they do not feel as much financial pressure.

Women working in the cleaning industry can often tend to keep quiet when there is a problem. I feel that this is because of the experience they have had in the past. What I have heard from cleaning operatives who worked at other cleaning companies, was that they were very often cheated with their pay or that they were too shy to ask for extra money. Moreover, in these companies, there was an environment of intimidation and employees were unable to request more cleaning materials, resulting in them buying the cleaning product and bearing the cost themselves.

When the problems occurred these women tried to resolve the problem themselves because that is how they did it at home. They got things done. However, in a commercial setting, this is not always the best option from a health and safety point of view.

Therefore, we really try to encourage our staff to communicate if they need something or if they felt uneasy about any aspect of their work. We visit all our client’s premises at least once per week to speak with our employees. We believe that this builds trust and supports communication. In daily interactions, we ask team managers to keep an open and honest communication channel with all employees within their area or team. We aim to be proactive and always go the extra mile to create an environment that is safe and welcoming to every member of our staff.

From my experience, just making a “contact me” form and telling our staff to “let me know if you need anything” simply does not work. They hardly get in touch with you via an electronic form or via email. During our weekly visits, we always keep our communication informal to make our employees relaxed as this promotes sharing. Very often we hear about personal areas of employees’ lives, and we cherish the fact that our team members decide to share these with us. It gives a personal touch and lets us get to know our employees better.  We also get to see how hard they work and how amazing a job they carry out for our clients.

By doing regular visits and regularly getting in touch, we create and foster a bond and a personal connection. Personal connection is very important, especially when working with women. It promotes trust and accountability between the management team and our cleaning operatives.

Appreciation really matters in our industry. From my experience being a mum often feels like you are not appreciated enough. We do not let the good work go unnoticed. And being a Living Wage Employer means that we can reward our team members by rewarding them fairly for their hard work.

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