Employers of cleaning staff operating in critical industries have been urged to provide them with written proof that they should be treated as critical and Key Workers.
The British Cleaning Council (BCC) made the call to help remove confusion over what Government guidelines on dealing with Coronavirus mean for cleaners working in critical industries.
The Republic of Ireland has explicitly named cleaners as essential workers if they are supporting essential industries.
The British Cleaning Council is calling on the UK Government to follow.
The BCC is campaigning for official recognition of the vital role of all cleaners in fighting the Coronavirus.
The UK Government has identified a number of critical industries and institutions which it wants to protect during the Coronavirus pandemic.
They include health and social care, education and childcare, key public services, local and national Government, supermarkets and the food supply chain, public safety and national security, the transport network, utilities, communication and financial services. Employees in these industries are classified as Key Workers.
Although the cleaning sector is not named on the list, the services cleaners provide are required to enable these organisations to continue to function safely, so cleaning staff are implicitly part of the Key Worker group.
The BCC is urging employers of cleaners supporting these critical industries to write letters for their staff which they can produce as evidence that they are Key Workers and that their work is critical.
A letter could be invaluable if cleaners need to place children at schools or at a childcare provider, so they can continue going to work. Schools and childcare settings have remained open for the children of Key Workers, although the Government has stressed that parents should keep their children at home if they possibly can.
An employer letter could also be produced by a cleaner if they are stopped by the police when travelling to work, proving that they cannot work from home and their travel is essential.
The Irish Government’s approach has been to name the cleaning of buildings and industrial cleaning where necessary to support other essential services under ‘Administrative and Support Services’ on the list of essential services excused by the travel ban, which it published on 28 March.
Paul Thrupp, Chairman of the BCC, said: “There has been some confusion among employers and employees in the cleaning sector about who should or shouldn’t go to work, because the cleaning industry has not been named as a critical industry by the Government.
“The UK Government should make it clear that cleaners supporting essential industries are excluded from the Coronavirus travel ban, as the Irish Government has done.
“We are advising employers of cleaners in critical industries to provide some clarity and reassurance to their employees by issuing them with letters, which could be used as evidence when needed.
“Cleanliness and high hygiene standards are particularly important in the UK’s critical industries and institutions during the fight against Coronavirus.
“If a lot of workers become ill with the virus, then critical organisations could grind to a halt, which would have huge consequences for the whole country.
“It is essential that cleaners in these sectors are able to get to work and also get help with childcare, if it is stopping them doing their jobs.
“We are also continuing to campaign for all cleaners to be recognised as Key Workers doing critical work, because of the importance of providing and maintaining clean, sanitised and safe premises and environments during the current pandemic. The role of cleaners has never been more important than it is now, during the current pandemic.”