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British Cleaning Council Warns of Staff Shortage Crisis Ahead of Winter Flu and COVID Spike

British Cleaning Council Warns of Staff Shortage Crisis Ahead of Winter Flu and COVID Spike
03 October 2022
 

The industry body that represents the cleaning and hygiene sector fears its workers will struggle to keep public spaces free of viruses if staff shortages continue.

The British Cleaning Council (BCC) predicts that a lack of staff, winter flu cases, and a major wave of COVID-19 cases this winter could put soft FM teams under pressure.

 

“We’ve been trying to engage the government on this issue but they simply haven’t listened or engaged with us.  I can't believe that they simply don’t care, but this can’t go on and with winter approaching and flu and COVID on the horizon, it is now extremely urgent.”

–Jim Melvin

Chair, BCC

 

 

Potential for a Twindemic?

 

The UK Health Security Agency has already warned of “strong indications” of the threat of widely circulating flu intensified by lower levels of natural immunity due to less exposure over the last three years.

This, combined with an increase in COVID-19 variants, may cause a “twindemic” in the coming months, says the BCC.

A report from the Academy of Medical Sciences warns that flu and other respiratory viruses that are likely to circulate at higher levels this winter share the same symptoms as COVID-19.

 

Ongoing Staff Shortages in the Cleaning Sector

 

Figures from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s Labour Market Tracker showed that the number of job postings for cleaning staff recently increased by 11 per cent in just one week, a higher rate than for nurses, care workers or primary school teachers.

The BCC says that many parts of the sector, which employs 1.47 million people, have been increasingly stretched since immigration rule changes classified cleaning and hygiene operatives as low-skilled, making it more difficult for overseas staff to find work in the sector.

The cleaning and hygiene industry has always depended on employees of all nationalities, with Labour Force Survey figures from 2020, before the immigration rules changed, showing that 20 per cent of the cleaning and hygiene industry workforce nationwide were from overseas, rising to 55 per cent in London.

The BCC also says that UK nationals have traditionally not joined the industry, so vacant positions are proving difficult to fill.

BCC Chair Jim Melvin said: “The sector’s skilled, professional staff are responsible for maintaining high standards of cleanliness and hygiene in hospitals and healthcare facilities, public transport, factories, workplaces, supermarkets and almost every other public building and facility.

“Any individual entering these busy facilities and touching surfaces could easily pass on a virus to other people if good standards of cleaning and hygiene are not maintained because of the lack of personnel.

“We’ve been trying to engage the government on this issue but they simply haven’t listened or engaged with us. I can't believe that they simply don’t care, but this can’t go on and with winter approaching and flu and COVID on the horizon, it is now extremely urgent.

“The poultry, truck driving and fruit picking sectors all received government help over the last year or so. Cleaning and hygiene has a direct effect on the public and therefore the economy, so it’s a very straightforward question and one that should concern members of the general public as to why the cleaning and hygiene sector being is consistently ignored?”

Picture: a photograph of an a-frame style cleaning warning sign. In the background of the image, a person can be seen cleaning the floor with a mop. Image Credit: BCC

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 03 October 2022

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