Guest blog: Rickardo Stewart, Community Souls - The Cleaning Company doing things differently
Community Souls is a social enterprise that trades as a cleaning company, employing adults who are furthest from the job market. We are a springboard for both their personal & professional development; providing secure employment and support to break down the barriers that prevent them from entering long-term employment. We are an accredited London Living Wage employer, providing fixed hour contracts with both holiday and sick pay.
Why did Community Souls decide to become an accredited Living Wage Employer? Why was this especially important in the Cleaning Sector?
Through our 15 years of supporting people in some of London’s most isolated communities, we consistently hear about the significant challenges faced by families on low income. There’s a resounding commitment to work - but very little opportunity and plenty of zero-hour contracts offered on the minimum wage. At every corner there are barriers to sustaining in work, resulting in the need for support and secure employment to run in parallel.
The cleaning sector contributes over £8 billion to the British economy every year. It provides a vital service to us all ensuring our workplaces, hospitals, schools, transport and public spaces are clean and pleasant to use. Yet often this key service goes unnoticed and unappreciated. It is a largely invisible workforce of around half a million people. Low pay is prevalent across the sector with wages close to, or at, the National Minimum Wage.* It was essential to us that we became an accredited London Living Wage employer so that we could make a public commitment that recognises the value of our workforce to both our team and clients.
What has been the benefits to your staff?
Since becoming a member in 2017 we’ve seen a significant impact on the lives of our staff. They have been offered financial security, enabling them to budget for and cover their living costs. On-going benefits to our team include; increased emotional wellbeing, reduction in stress and anxiety, increased resilience and positive family life.
One of the most significant messages we’ve heard from our team is how valued they feel at work and that they’ve never experienced this before, they consistently tell us they are proud to work with us and feel able to contribute to the workplace with pride and joy. As a result, we have a reliable, dynamic and highly professional team who we are incredibly proud to work with.
What has been the difference for employees now earning the real Living Wage?
“In my first year of working with Community Souls I was able to buy Christmas presents for my daughter which is something I have always struggled to do - I felt so proud” - T 35 years old
“I only need to work one job now - because it's given me the stability i need to be able to work and look after my family”- A 47 years old
Lessons learnt and advice for other employers?
One of the main challenges for us is providing a competitive quote - when we’re up against the rest of the industry who pay minimum wage, so can therefore easily undercut us! We’ve had to learn to develop a pitch that focuses on helping our clients understand the impact they are able to make on the lives of our team, and how the London Living Wage ensures this. It’s also been important to us that we keep our clients updated so that they feel part of our staff’s journey and proud to be supporting by contracting our services.
Join responsible employer like Community Souls and become a real Living Wage Employer today!
*The Invisible Workforce Report, written by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2014.