The Reality Of Furlough For Multisite Cleaners

October 2, 2020

Furlough has been an absolute life saver for so many people over the last few months, but it hasn’t been for all. For some it has given time to save some money ready for inevitable unemployment. For others it has allowed for retraining or time to experience and consider a change in lifestyle. Yet for others it has brought with it many difficulties.

What if a cleaner worked more than one job? 

Where a cleaner worked more than one job, i.e. for a separate company, they were able to be part furloughed from the outset. This is because one company could still employ them for the sites which needed cleaning but the other company could completely furlough them from their other job. 

What if a cleaner worked more than one site for the same job? 

This is where things got tricky. aZtec’s Regional Managers explained, “We had to explain to each cleaner how furlough worked. If they worked on one site which was no longer operating, that was simple enough once you explained the situation, but it was when 1 or 2 out of a cleaner’s 3 sites closed that it was difficult to furlough.  One of our cleaners was used to earning £400 per week but the closure of 2 out of 3 sites meant he was only going to earn £18 per week and wouldn’t be able to be furloughed. We had to work hard to move cleaners around, fully furloughing some whilst others covered replacement sites to maintain their income. Some of our cleaners don’t drive, so they were limited on which sites they could work at. We also had to step up the cleaning in some cases or reopen whilst cleaners were still furloughed. This was easier said than done. It was quite overwhelming at times but we managed it.” Luckily with the change of the furlough scheme, those who had been fully furloughed were able to start to return to work, even if only some sites reopened. This made a huge difference to the cleaning industry.

How did reduced bus routes affect commercial cleaners during COVID-19?

Commercial cleaning has been absolutely crucial for workplaces such as offices, schools and surgeries to stay open where relevant during COVID-19. Due to reduced bus routes, some cleaners who don’t drive struggled to get to work. In the best cases they might have a partner or family member who was furloughed and could drop them off at their cleaning site. For others they had to resort to taxis if they were to keep the job. Commercial cleaning isn’t known for its high wages or long hours. In this case, Amanda Winconek, one of our Regional Managers explained, “To give an example, the cleaner I just mentioned,  went from earning £400 per week to earning £18. After a taxi fare both ways, he would only take home £3. We had no choice but to furlough him and find a replacement cleaner for his site who had lost work elsewhere. As managers we also had to cover a lot of cleaning. It was a very difficult position.”

What happens when a working visa renewal doesn’t come through for an office cleaner?

This was just another COVID-19 related issue Brenda Yon, another of our Regional Managers, tackled, “I had a really good cleaner who was also a team leader in my cleaning team. He was from Africa, on a working visa which made him a legal worker. Due to COVID-19, he didn’t receive his visa renewal. I had to suspend his employment immediately the day it ran out. He was paid up to date, but we weren’t even able to furlough him. He usually worked 2.5 hours per day. That was awful.” 

Thank you cleaners, cleaning supervisors and cleaning managers

aZtec Commercial Cleaning would like to thank all of our Regional Managers for their determination and hard work during the COVID-19 lockdown period. Brenda, Debbie, Amanda and Georgina all dealt with a number of logistical nightmares and last minute site changes for their cleaning clients. They supported each other through this time and somehow got to the other side where the majority of clients have started to return to a semblance of normal. aZtec would also like to thank all supervisors and cleaners who have been patient with changes, reductions, increases and site alterations. We’ve always believed in our cleaning team, but they have been really tested through this and have proved how well they work together to ensure our clients get the service they need and expect.

aZtec would also like to thank our clients who have been supportive wherever possible. We didn’t charge our clients when they needed to close with immediate effect due to COVID-19, and it has been great to see the majority return to us.