Why Are Cleaners Always Overlooked?

Whilst I sit here reading the ‘Key Worker List’ produced by the UK Government during the 2020 COVID-19 Crisis, I am disappointed to see cleaners have been overlooked yet again. In fact disappointed doesn’t quite cut it. During a time when everyone in the world has suddenly learned how to wash their hands for long enough to actually clean them. During a time when everyone is wiping down their door handles, light switches and any surface they are aware of touching. Why during this time have we seen yet another instance of cleaners being completely overlooked?

Key worker list observations

When we read the government’s guidance on who is considered a key worker, not one sector directly mentions cleaners. The closest we get is within ‘Health and social care’, where it states ‘the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector‘. Even in ‘Education and childcare’, there is a distinct lack of mention of who ensures that those actually attending school will be protected as much as possible by thorough cleaning regimes.

Response from the cleaning industry

Chairman of British Cleaning Council, Paul Thrupp spoke out, “As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic together as an industry, it is my duty to keep you informed about how the British Cleaning Council (BCC) is campaigning to ensure that people within our industry are viewed as essential ‘critical or key workers’ who are needed more than ever to ensure we not only maintain but elevate hygiene standards in the UK in order to come out of this crisis quicker…”

It has been great to see Chambers of Commerce and cleaning authorities such as British Cleaning Council speaking out and ensuring the government realises their error, but is it enough?

Too little too late?

Even though we have now heard government officials mentioning cleaners and their crucial work to help keep people safe, the fact that they were overlooked in the first place hasn’t changed. I hope that there will be a benefit to this awful situation we all find ourselves in. I hope that cleaners, whether they be commercial cleaners, like school cleaners, surgery cleaners, office cleaners, hospital cleaners, transport cleaners, washroom cleaners or house cleaners, just to name a few, are all recognised, respected and celebrated. Cleaners are members of society who work in the background, often out of hours, usually when very few people, if any, see them working. In certain circumstances cleaners do work around the general public or within an office when it is fully populated. Sadly, in many cases they still feel as though no-one sees them. This is what I’d like to see change.

What I have learned about cleaners since working in the industry

I was fortunate to join the cleaning industry, just before aZtec Commercial Cleaning celebrated it’s 40 year anniversary. In the past 2.5 years, I have had the opportunity to learn about all areas of the business. I’ve trained as a cleaner, scrubbed toilets, wiped exhaust fumes off walls, mopped filthy floors, shampooed carpets, cleaned hundreds of over-cluttered desks, de-dusted a paper processing warehouse, deep cleaned a primary school, delivered supplies, quoted for new cleaning contracts and experienced a number of different workplaces. I’ve learned that cleaning is hard work and although it can be satisfying, it can also be soul destroying. I’ve learned that very few people show their appreciation and that when they do, it means a lot. I’ve been humbled by the cleaners and commercial cleaning managers I have met. These ‘invisible to many’ and usually overlooked cleaning professionals work so hard, day after day, the same surfaces after the same surfaces and yet in the majority of cases still turn up and take pride in their work. Cleaners are not just cleaners. Cleaners are people with their own lifes, families, worries and dreams. Cleaners are worthy of the same respect and awareness as any other human being, if not more.

 

Written by Jane Tarrant