How Housekeep’s technology promotes equal opportunity in the cleaning industry

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How Housekeep’s technology promotes equal opportunity in the cleaning industry

How Housekeep’s technology promotes equal opportunity in the cleaning industry

Workers in the cleaning industry face issues ranging from low pay and poor working conditions, to discrimination and even modern slavery. 

Housekeep is building technology to fix the industry and improve the lives of cleaners. From scheduling tools that put cleaners in full control of when and where they work, to job auto-allocation that fairly assigns work based on merit.

Our proprietary job allocation and route optimisation technologies also increase cleaner earnings - by assigning dense, local travel routes which increase utilisation and reduce travel costs.

In a case study, the UN Women’s Committee noted that Housekeep’s technology promotes equal opportunities and contributes to radically better conditions for cleaners. 

Cleaning workers face some of the poorest working conditions

The home cleaning industry is large, with an estimated 500,000 domestic cleaners working in the UK.1 That means there’s more home cleaners than nurses (332,000)2, doctors (124,000)and almost as many as there are teachers (625,000)4. It’s estimated that 90% of home cleaners are female and 91% are from ethnic minority groups.5 

Low pay is prevalent across the cleaning industry. 2,000,000 workers in the UK are paid at or below the minimum wage. Of those, 48% work in retail, hospitality, cleaning or maintenance occupations.6 Analysis of 55,000 jobs on the UK’s largest job board (Feb 22) showed that the average cleaning job in the UK paid just £9.60/hour 7 – well below the £15.59/hour median UK wage.8

But it’s not just about the hourly rate. Back in 2016, the Guardian spoke to an independent cleaner charging £10/hour to regular customers – well above the minimum wage at the time. But with travel costs, cleaning materials & other costs, she earned closer to £5/hour.9 Just half of what customers were paying. This is typical for independent cleaners. They have to travel across large distances to stay busy, with limited earnings due to ‘dead hours’ spent travelling between jobs. Not to mention the time and money that’s spent on self-promotion – using Gumtree, Facebook and other online networks to find potential clients.

Alongside generally low pay, reports of underpayments and late payments are also common in the cleaning industry. This is unsurprising, with so much work being paid for with cash left on the kitchen counter. An estimated 90% of cleaning work takes place in this shadow economy, so cleaners are often left chasing customers, just to receive the money they’re owed.

Most cleaners work in the shadow economy or within small agencies (88% of agencies employ <10 staff).11 Support is limited or non-existent, and cleaners are often working alone in strangers’ homes – potentially vulnerable and without anybody to turn to when they need help.

Workers in the cleaning industry are particularly vulnerable to modern slavery. In 2016 the Global Slavery Index estimated that 0.4% of the entire UK workforce is living in modern slavery.12 Incidences of modern slavery are likely to be more common in domestic cleaning, given that the work is largely conducted in the shadow economy and by women – who are are disproportionately the victims of modern slavery (58% of domestic workers in modern slavery are women).13, 14 The Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority has profiled the cleaning industry, noting that withheld wages and payment below National Minimum Wage are the issues most frequently reported by victims within the industry.15

Housekeep makes cleaning smarter, safer, simpler

Studies have shown that, when it comes to employment, candidates from ethnic minorities are generally disadvantaged and passed over, leading to “higher unemployment, lower wages, poorer conditions and less security in work and life”.16, 17 Housekeep’s technology removes manual allocation of work and inherent selection biases, by using performance data to automatically allocate customers to the best available cleaner in their local area. This creates a fair marketplace with equal opportunities.  

Housekeep’s technology and support also creates a safer working environment. Cleaner locations are tracked via the Housekeep Professionals App, so the support team always knows where a cleaner is. If a cleaner needs help, they can contact the support team via the app, phone or email, 7 days a week. Cleaners have full control to reject and block customers. Because of Housekeep’s network effects, we can often fill schedule gaps immediately, so that cleaners remain fully utilised.

Housekeep’s model focuses on repeat, regular work, rather than on-demand cleaning. This creates stable, dependable income for cleaners – with familiar customers and working environments. Housekeep cleaners are in control of their schedules, choosing the hours and days that they work, the areas that they work in, and when they take time off

Cleaners working with Housekeep earn up-to 50% more. An analysis of UK home cleaning salaries in 2022 shows that Housekeep cleaners’ hourly rate is 11% higher than the average cleaning wage nationally, and 20% higher than the National Living Wage. As well as higher hourly pay, our job allocation and route optimisation technology is able to assign cleaners more work, with dense, local travel routes. By assigning jobs that can be travelled between on foot, or by a short bus journey, this technology has saved Housekeep cleaners £6m + in travel costs since launch. And this technology drives up cleaner utilisation, further increasing take-home pay.

Cleaners are paid by Housekeep in full every two weeks – even if their customers haven’t paid. Payment is made to a bank account in the cleaner’s name, to reduce the risk of labour abuse or modern slavery. Right to work & identity checks are also carried out when a cleaner joins Housekeep, further protecting against modern slavery.

Housekeep is continuing to invest in technology to improve the lives of cleaners. In 2021 we added local cleaner-to-cleaner key transfers to our secure key holding system. This allows cleaners to transfer keys ‘in the field’, which reduces the time spent transferring keys and increases utilisation. We estimate that this technology will increase cleaner earnings by 4%. This innovation won the ‘Transformation Through Technology’ award at the Global Business Tech Awards in 2021.

Housekeep’s impact on cleaners' working conditions has been recognised internationally

The UN Women’s Committee noted in a case study that Housekeep’s technology contributed to radically better conditions for cleaners. In particular, they noted cleaners had greater control over their schedules, including the ability to reject and block customers, as well as access to local customers and 7-day support.

Housekeep’s founder & CEO, Avin Rabheru, was also recognised for his work in improving the lives of cleaners, receiving an MBE for services to entrepreneurship and digital innovation in the cleaning industry in the Queen’s 2022 New Year’s Honours list.

But we’re most proud of the feedback we receive from happy cleaners:
 

 

References

1. Estimated based on: Employment by occupation (575,000 in cleaning & domestics) & Industry (2, 3 and 5 - digit SIC) - Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES): Table 2 (369,800 in General Cleaning of Buildings)

2. The King's Fund, Key facts and figures about the NHS (https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/audio-video/key-facts-figures-nhs#:~:text=How%20many%20doctors%2C%20nurses%20and,are%20full%2Dtime%20equivalent)

3. The King's Fund, Key facts and figures about the NHS (https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/audio-video/key-facts-figures-nhs#:~:text=How%20many%20doctors%2C%20nurses%20and,are%20full%2Dtime%20equivalent)

4. British Educational Suppliers Association, Key UK education statistics (https://www.besa.org.uk/key-uk-education-statistics/#:~:text=How%20many%20teachers%20are%20there,27%2C883%20work%20in%20special%20schools.)

5. Gov.uk: Employment by occupation (https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/work-pay-and-benefits/employment/employment-by-occupation/latest#by-ethnicity-and-type-of-occupation)

6. House of Commons Library, National Minimum Wage Statistics (https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7735/)

7. Analysis of 55,000 jobs posted on UK's largest job board in February 2022

8. Statista, Full Time Hourly Wage in the UK (https://www.statista.com/statistics/416097/full-time-hourly-wage-uk-by-region/)

9. The Guardian, Middle class cash-in-hand employers 'unlikely to pay minimum wage'
(https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/01/middle-class-cash-in-hand-employers-unlikely-to-pay-minimum-wage)
10. Equality Human Rights, The Invisible Workforce: Employment Practices in the Cleaning Sector Findings Report
(https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/the_invisible_workforce_full_report_08-08-14.pdf)

11. British Cleaning Council, Cleaning, Hygiene and Waste Industry: Research Report 2021 (https://www.bics.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/RR2021.pdf)

12. Statista, Number of people employed in the United Kingdom from March 1971 to December 2021 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/281998/employment-figures-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/)

13. Global Slavery Index, UNFINISHED BUSINESS: ADDRESSING THE VICTIMISATION OF WOMEN AND GIRLS (https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/resources/essays/unfinished-business-addressing-the-victimisation-of-women-an)d-girls#:~:text=The%202017%20Global%20Estimates%20of,percent%20of%20victims%20of%20forced)

14. Global Slavery Index, Country Studies - United Kingdom (https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/2018/findings/country-studies/united-kingdom/)

15. Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority, Industry Profile - Cleaning - 2020 (https://www.gla.gov.uk/who-we-are/modern-slavery/industry-profile-cleaning-2020/)

16. LSE, Ethnic minorities are less likely to find good work than their white British counterparts, even when born and educated in the UK (https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/ethnic-penalties-and-hiring-discrimination/)

17. The Guardian, Minority ethnic Britons face 'shocking' job discrimination (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/17/minority-ethnic-britons-face-shocking-job-discrimination)
 

 

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