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Guest Blog: Facilicom - Why the Living Wage is more important than ever for the cleaning and security industries

By Jan-Hein Hemke, Managing Director at Facilicom UK & Ireland.

Facilicom are a Recognised Service Provider working with the Living Wage Foundation.

When it comes to paying our workforce, it couldn’t be clearer. Those who are willing to work hard should be rewarded sufficiently – so that they can live, enjoy life and support their families, without stress.

That is why, for many years, now we have been strong supporters of the Living Wage movement. In fact, we are a founding member of its Service Provider Recognition Programme and were one of the first national contract cleaning companies to sign up to it. Our sister company, Trigion Security Services also actively supports the movement.

We took these steps as we wanted to lead the industry in tackling in-work poverty and improve the wellbeing of our lower paid employees. The cleaning sector is often perceived as short-termist and underpaid, and we wanted to change that perception to ensure that each of our colleagues felt respected and valued. 

Over the years, we have seen first-hand what a difference paying the Living Wage makes. From improving relationships between employer and colleague, to ensuring a better standard of living for our people, it has been one of the most positive initiatives that we have adopted.

Take Emma Black for example, a Facilicom cleaning operative at the Bank of New York Mellon in Edinburgh. She is a single parent of two and works 15 hours a week. She recently told us that we were the first company she had worked for that paid the Living Wage and shared the impact this has had on her family-life.

She said:  “The Living Wage might not seem like a lot to some people but for me, where every penny counts, it’s a godsend. Before I started working for Facilicom, the weeks and months felt hopeless and I would spend every day counting the pennies and trying to budget enough to get by until the next time I got paid. Since starting to work for Facilicom, my life has dramatically changed for the better and my children are much better off for it. The Living Wage has helped me get myself and my children out of an unsafe flat and into a nice house where we can build a family home.”

It’s comments like this that make it all worthwhile. Knowing we can change a person’s life for the better is one of the most rewarding parts of managing the business. And in return for paying a fair wage, there are clear business benefits too. Since joining the Living Wage scheme, we have seen low levels of absenteeism, increased staff retention and high amounts of job fulfilment.  This, in turn, has led to better teamwork, service provision and greater client satisfaction.

As the events of recent months have unfolded, the issue of pay has come into real focus for many companies. With the COVID-19 crisis putting immense pressure on business, many industries had to grind to a halt and some sadly had to let people go, or at least furlough staff until fortunes improved. This, of course, has put many families in extremely difficult financial positions.

At Facilicom and Trigion, we are relieved to say we haven’t had to make any COVID related redundancies. Yes, we have had clients who have temporarily closed their doors, leaving us with no choice but to furlough some colleagues, but we have been doing all we can to support them through these unprecedented times. 

We do not underestimate the impact that losing 20 percent of your income can have. This is why we have put provisions in place to ensure that almost all of our colleagues still receive 100% pay whilst on furlough. And the reason behind this decision runs parallel with our motives for supporting the Living Wage movement – to ensure every single Facilicom employee feels valued and appreciated at all times. It is easy to have values when things are going well, but it is a true show of character if you maintain these during a crisis.

Upholding these values is equally important for those still working on the frontline during the pandemic. Many of our cleaning operatives and security officers have been putting their own concerns to one side to deal with the job at hand. From ensuring that client premises are safe and protected, to delivering vital services, like office deep cleans and touch-point sterilising. Now, more than ever, it is vital that these colleagues are rewarded fairly for their efforts.

The pandemic has brought challenging times for everyone, but one positive to come out of the situation is the conversations it has allowed us to have with clients around the often avoided topic of pay.

Take one of our customers in the travel sector for example. We have worked with them for six years and they are very pleased with the level of service our cleaning operative provides. But when the impact of coronavirus hit, and they had to close their doors temporarily, they could no longer afford to pay our colleague. We agreed that we would make use of the furlough scheme for this individual and freeze the client’s payments until they reopened. In exchange, they have agreed to become a Living Wage employer as soon as they return to business as usual.  A fantastic outcome for all parties and just shows how much they value our work. Had we not been forced into discussions around the contract’s finances due to COVID-19, this move may not have come.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that employers bear a huge responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their workforce. From protecting their physical health by making the workplace safe and hygienic, to safeguarding mental health by offering support and paying a fair wage. It has never been more important to invest in your teams.

4th August 2020
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