In light of Brexit, the trump presidency and the recent UK election kicking up a storm it is fair to say that many industries have been left hanging under a cloud of uncertainty, and the cleaning industry is no exception.
Recent statistics show there are currently more than 9000 cleaning companies in the UK, with the size of the cleaning industry estimated at a staggering £7 billion. It is therefore vital that the industry is protected and that everything is done to minimize the impact of the UK leaving the EU.
The Cleaning Industry and Relationships in Europe
It is obvious that the news of Brexit has set off some alarm bells for the cleaning industry. Shortly after the decision to leave the EU was announced came the stepping down of the BICSc chairman Simon Hollingbery, in his stepping down he announced ‘I remain confident that the UK cleaning industry can weather any potential Brexit storm but I won’t be at the forefront of our new brave world outside the EU ‘.
However, the BICSc is confident that it will maintain its strong relationship with colleges around Europe and hold on to its membership with the EFCI European Federation of Cleaning Industries (EFCI). There will be an even greater emphasis on building important networks with European industry professionals. The issue as to whether Brexit will negatively impact the retention and solidification of these relationships is questionable.
With the devaluation of the pound, imports are becoming more expensive and exports becoming cheaper thus price and availability of cleaning equipment will be likely to be affected once Britain begins to leave the EU.
The Cleaning Industry Workforce and Immigration
It is clear migrant workers prove the main challenge for the cleaning industry, one study by the ONS showed that approximately 25% of cleaning employees don’t have British nationality, whilst the average of percentage of foreign workers in other industries is below 18%. Highlighted in figures from the ONS, three in four migrants from Eastern Europe are filling low-skill jobs. The industry employs numerous migrants from other EU countries, this coupled with the drop in GBP value, will mean companies which rely on migrant workers have a tough time finding new employees. There are concerns over tightening up of recruitment regulations despite 82% of the industry believing it should be made easier to hire EU workers. In addition, there are speculations that there will be changes to rules around zero hour contracts, which could see employers opting to employ less staff but with more fixed hours. Another key challenge for the UK cleaning industry will be attracting young talent, council members are discussing ideas that may revive funding for training and education.
Some worrying statistics were made apparent in a survey conducted by industry magazine Cleaning Matters. The survey discovered that because of Brexit one third of respondents have put investments on hold, 9% have cut cleaning schedules and 6% look to employing lower-skilled workers. However, some firms see this as a wake up call to hang on to their existing workforce with 30% investing in the training and retention. Companies also see the requirement to streamline their current processes as 14% plan on investing in equipment with better longevity whilst 11% in see the benefit in investing in modern technology.
What is the BICSc doing to safeguard the cleaning industry?
Unfortunately, 43% of cleaning professionals are not confident in the UK Government’s ability to negotiate a settlement that would work for the UK cleaning industry. Based on this the BICSc has already written to the Brexit sectary outlining its apprehensions. It seems that only time will tell whether their concerns will be taken into consideration.
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