Customer support for Fair Pay

Research commissioned by Cleanology showed that 93% of employees across FM and other sectors care that cleaners are paid fairly. CEO Dominic Ponniah explains the results.

For many of us, work is fulfilling and gives us a sense of identity and purpose. However, truth be told, the need to earn a living is what initially drives us into the workplace. Cleaning is often perceived as low-paid, unskilled work, but the Real Living Wage ensures that operatives are paid a realistic wage to cover the costs and demands of modern life.

Cleanology is a passionate advocate of the Real Living Wage, but we commonly encounter confusion around the different rates of pay and, sometimes, a lack of awareness from clients over support for higher rates of pay. We recently commissioned the first research to explore the attitudes both to wage levels and to perceptions around cleaners’ pay. The research was conducted in January 2019, among 1,056 respondents. 50% of respondents were male; 50% female.

As we expected, the research uncovered a great deal of confusion around the National Living Wage and Real Living Wage pay brackets, with a majority of respondents underestimating the level of the voluntary Real Living Wage and just 33% correctly identifying the statutory National Living Wage rate.

The data should give every FM firm and office site manager food for thought. It shows that employees across all age brackets support the concept of fair pay for cleaners, with nine in 10 saying they would lose respect for a company that did not pay the Real Living Wage.

The research, which was conducted by Sapio Research, showed that 93% of company employees cared to some extent about the level of pay afforded to cleaning operatives, while 45% would not work for a company that does not pay the Real Living Wage.

In addition, while almost two-thirds – 63% – of employees are concerned that cleaners should be paid fairly, only 39% have an accurate idea of the real figures on cleaning pay.


This is not surprising when you consider that although cleaning is a crucial service for any workplace, the operatives themselves often represent an ‘invisible’ workforce. Any cleaning firm will recognise, however, that involving cleaning operatives further with the FM team pays huge dividends for all involved. Communication improves, staff retention increases and the team becomes more cohesive. The first step in this process is to ensure that cleaning staff are fairly remunerated.

The three rates of pay per hour currently in place are:

• The Minimum Wage, which is set at £7.70 (21–24 year olds) and £6.15 (18–20 year olds).

• The National Living Wage, the minimum agreed by the government for over 25s. It is set at £8.21.

• The Real Living Wage is a voluntary rate agreed by employers. Set at £9 across the UK (£10.55 in London), it is calculated on the cost of living, based on a basket of household goods and services.

Since cleaners often work part-time hours, it is especially important that their wages reflect the needs of the real world. Confirmation that employees in other sectors recognise this need is extremely positive and will, hopefully, drive standards for cleaning operatives towards a more modern system.

While work clearly needs to be done to clarify the differences between statutory rates of pay and the voluntary Real Living Wage rates, which represent the realistic minimum needed to live, for FMs and other businesses contracting cleaners, the benefits of paying a realistic rate are obvious. It not only sends the right message to employees, but also positions the company as a modern, forward-thinking organisation with a strong sense of stewardship towards everyone that works within its buildings.

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