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The road ahead

Jonathan Baker or Thomas Cleaning asks whether the Contract Cleaning industry will enjoy the next 18 months.

The contact cleaning market is probably bigger than the average person might think. Some of the more recent estimates value it at approximately 1.6 million workers — or around 5% of the total UK workforce — and that was before the coronavirus pandemic.

And although contract cleaning is going through a boom in practice, it isn’t all sunshine and rose gardens ahead. The transition period with the UK’s relationship to the European Union will come to an end this December, and the rest of the economy is in a mess. There’s bound to be some bite back once the virus is under control, or after a vaccine is developed.

In the meantime, we will have to make sure that the government is listening to the cleaning industry’s demands to ensure that measures will be in place to cushion or prevent a shortfall in recruitment once the Brexit transition period has ended.

As no doubt everyone knows, cleaning companies are mostly small enterprises and a disproportionately large number of its employees (when compared to the national average) are foreign-born. This isn’t just the workers on the floor, but at all levels — from the manufacturing and distribution sides of things, too. Even some of the raw materials of many cleaning ingredients – which we take for granted – are liable to be disrupted if the EU-UK supply chains are impacted.

What will likely happen

The government looks set to implement its ‘Australian- style points-based system’ which, before the lockdown, was decried by the British Cleaning Council as potentially devastating to the industry. Obviously, there will be more British workers entering into the industry, at least for the short to mid-term, as the economy attempts to recover.

But even then, it’s likely the government’s immigration legislation will come with a few amendments to safeguard industries like cleaning. I’m also optimistic that no one on both sides of Europe will want anything to change too severely, and so we might just have a Brexit that’s little more than in name only — at least when it comes to overseas recruitment.

The Prime Minister wants life to be as normal as it can get — without a vaccine — by Christmas. He’s also determined to press ahead with ending the transitional agreement at the end of the same month. My predictions are there will be an increase in contract cleaning demands as more businesses open up again, who will feel the need to look like they are doing something.

This increase might dip slightly in the new year, however, but will still be above normal levels. As for Brexit and overseas workers: providing there isn’t a second (or even third) wave


“Even some of the raw materials of many cleaning ingredients are

liable to be disrupted if the EU-UK supply chains are impacted.”

of infections from Europe grounding flights, something’s telling me it won’t be as rocky as we might think.

Predicting the future

It’s a bit of a cliché, but we can only prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Larger companies will be able to invest in risk management tools to help them navigate the uncertainty ahead. As for the rest of us, we will need to use our intuition and follow news and world events closely. Confidently for the time being, though, we can predict an increase in home-grown talent to fill any void that may be left in the case of a scuffed Brexit and immigration policy.

One final question we can entertain is, will the long-term future of contract cleaning be especially lucrative, given the shakeup of the coronavirus? Maybe, and maybe even probably. But increasingly we can expect technological developments to render more immediate deep cleans less necessary over time.

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