TUPE & Cleaning

 Transfer of Undertakings and Protection of Employees (TUPE) 2006.

TUPE is a regulation which protects employees rights when a contract transfers from one company to another – it does not only apply to cleaning. Employees of the old cleaning company will automatically become employees of the new cleaning company on exactly the same terms and conditions as they had when employed by the original cleaning company. From the employees perspective, it is if their contract of employment had always been with the new cleaning company – all of their rights are all preserved.

So what does this mean for the new customer who was unhappy enough to re tender in the first place?

Well, the first thing it means is the cleaning staff who will be cleaning their premises will be exactly the same as before (assuming none decide to leave as they don’t want to work for the new cleaning company)! Sounds strange, doesn’t it? You are unhappy with the quality of cleaning so you change cleaning company but still keep the same staff!

Many smaller customers start by telling us they want us to get rid of the current cleaners but, by law, this is not something we can do.

So what can we do?

In most situations,the cleaners themselves are being left to their own devices with little or no guidance and with no supervision, inspections, reviews or audits and, a lot of the time, they don’t even realise they are doing a poor job.

In these cases it is a case of putting some strong leadership and management in place and implementing stringent quality processes including regular audits with the cleaners, cleaning supervisors and the customer. By simply doing this we have found the vast majority of cleaners can be turned around quickly and, in a lot of instances, they turn out to be fantastic and capable workers who actually enjoy someone caring about what they do and start to take a real pride in their work.

Now don’t get me wrong – sometimes the employee is just not up to the job and never will improve. So what can we do in this case? As part of the above mentioned quality and audit process a system of performance management needs to be implemented which clearly and simply defines exactly what is expected of the employee, timelines for improvement and, importantly, the consequences to them of not meeting required standards. If implemented correctly this is a sure fire way of either the cleaner leaving of their own free will as they are not enjoying the close supervision and inspection or, in the extreme, creating a case for dismissing the cleaner for inability to perform their duties to a satisfactory standard. In most cases, it should be possible to remove a sub standard cleaner in less than 4 weeks from taking on a contract.

At the very beginning I also talked about customers wishing to change cleaning provider as thy are unhappy with the price they are paying. Very often this is directly related to the lack of satisfaction around the quality of service being received and rather than simply being an issue with the price, it is more an issue with value for money. The customer does not feel they are getting a quality service for the price they are paying. More often than not by addressing the quality issue the price and value issue will go away too.

However, sometimes customers simply want to reduce cost by looking for alternate cleaning providers. This again, indirectly, is affected by TUPE. One of the stipulations of TUPE is that the employees terms and conditions of employment do not change despite their employer changing. What this means in real terms is their pay stays the same, their holiday allowance stays the same – any benefits whatseoever they receive as part of their contract of employment stays exactly the same.

When you consider that staff costs make up the vast bulk of the costs of any cleaning contract TUPE has a massive impact here – before being able to bid for cleaning work where TUPE applies your new cleaning company will need to talk to all the employees affected (or a suitable representative) and get a detailed understanding of their working hours, pay rates, holiday allowances and so on. These costs will then become the starting costs for the new cleaning company so one of two things happen. This removes so much flexibility around costs for cleaning. The new cleaning company has to base their cost model, and therefore the contract value, around prices and costs over which they have no control.

Unfortunately what this means is that often when changing cleaning companies to a quality provider your cost can actually go UP rather than down as the new company has additional costs to manage around management, supervisions, inspections and audits. Not exactly the outcome customers expect but there is little or nothing cleaning companies can do – it is the law!

In conclusion, if you are unhappy with your current cleaning and it is outsourced by all means DO look at a new cleaning company but when evaluating the new company make sure you fully evaluate and understand their quality processes and how intend to ensure they maintain a quality service throughout the contract term. Finally, be prepared to give the new company a few months to address any issues caused by the staff they are inheriting – there is nothing they can do in the first week so set your expectations accordingly and within a few months you will hopefully have the cleaning service you deserve and will be getting real value for money.