Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
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Industry taskforce unveils campaign to improve the working conditions of cleaners

A campaign to promote good working conditions in the cleaning industry has been launched by an industry-led taskforce set up by the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The taskforce, chaired by EHRC Deputy Chair Caroline Waters, includes leading businesses, trade associations and trade unions.

The Commission convened the taskforce following publication of its report The Invisible Workforce: employment practices in the cleaning sector. This set out our findings on employment practices in the commercial cleaning sector in England, Scotland and Wales.

The report found many examples of good practice. These included cleaning firms with policies in place to promote equality and also clients who enter into longer-term contracts. These help firms to develop positive relationships with suppliers and also encourage investment in workforce development, leading to greater job stability.

The report also found that some employers did not provide contracts to staff. Further, some failed to pay their employees in full, or to pay sickness or holiday leave entitlements  Many cleaning operatives are female migrants, who spoke of being ‘invisible’, of being treated badly compared to other employees, and said they did not understand their rights.

To solve these problems the taskforce developed principles for responsible procurement. The purpose of this is to encourage clients who buy in cleaning services to consider the impact of procurement on the employment practices of cleaning providers. The taskforce also developed a poster to highlight the value of cleaning operatives, and Your Rights at Work postcards for cleaning firms to send to their employees explaining their employment rights.

All of the materials are available to download on the Commission’s website. 

Caroline Waters, Equality and Human Rights Commissioner and taskforce Chair said:

The Commission’s role is to promote and enforce the laws that protect our rights to fairness, dignity and respect.  It has been a great privilege to have worked over the past year or so with so many people who are committed to improving the working conditions of cleaning operatives.

It is fantastic that taskforce members drawn from across business, industry, trade associations, government, voluntary bodies and trade unions have come together with their thoughts, ideas and energy, and with a real appetite for tackling the problems our original report revealed.

We very much hope the tools we have now produced will help to bring real and lasting change for commercial cleaning operatives.

View report:


For more press information contact the Commission’s media office on 0161 829 8102, out of hours 07767 272 818.

Notes to editors

Taskforce members were:

  • British Cleaning Council

  • British Hospitality Association

  • British Institute of Cleaning Science

  • British Institute of Facilities Management

  • Business Services Association

  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)

  • Equality and Human Rights Commission

  • Facilicom

  • Go-Ahead Group plc

  • Health and Safety Executive

  • i-Clean

  • Interserve

  • ISS

  • KPMG

  • LCC Support Services Ltd

  • Living Wage Foundation

  • London Cleaning Academy

  • Mitie

  • NHS Property Services

  • RMT

  • Sedex

  • Servest

  • Sodexo

  • Tesco

  • The Building Futures Group

  • TUC

  • Unison


  • Xenon Group

The taskforce was also supported by:

Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply who contributed to the development of the Responsible Procurement Principles; and the Latin American Women's Rights Service and ABCD who contributed to the development of the Know Your Rights briefing and postcards.

Three taskforce working groups developed the products:

The Know Your Rights briefing pack and postcards were developed by a group chaired by Scott Hill, Interserve

The Responsible Procurement Principles were developed by a group chaired by Guy Stallard, KPMG

The Dignity and Respect poster campaign was developed by a group chaired by Sarah Bentley, The Building Futures Group.

If your company is interested in supporting the cleaning campaign, please get in touch at: cleaning@equalityhumanrights.com 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006. It operates as an independent body to protect and promote equality and human rights in Great Britain. It aims to encourage equality and diversity, eliminate unlawful discrimination, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. It encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998 and is accredited by the UN as an ‘A status’ National Human Rights Institution.

Channel website: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en

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