Guest Blog: Sandy Aird - Managing Director, Enhance Cleaning
Enhance is a Recognised Service Provider proudly working with the Living Wage Foundation. We commit to supplying a Living Wage bid alongside every market rate submittal to all their prospective and current clients. This means the client always has the choice to implement the Living Wage at the point of tender.
I thought it was going to be the most difficult decision of my business life but when it actually came to it, I knew it was overwhelmingly the right thing to do. That was 8 years ago and I have never since regretted the decision to implement the London Living Wage across many of our contracts.
Enhance were one of the first cleaning companies to embrace the idea of a fair wage for low-paid workers in London. In July 2010, despite being in the grips of the Global Economic Crisis, London’s property market was booming and house prices had increased by a remarkable 15% in just 12 months, making it even harder for low-income families to get on the property ladder . It struck me that there was a huge disparity between those earning a good salary in the City and the people at the other end of the scale who were cleaning their offices every day for peanuts. I thought this was very unfair, especially as most cleaning contractors seemed to assume that every contract should be at the 2010 minimum wage rate of £5.93. I tried to imagine what my life would be like if I had to get up at three in the morning, take a night bus to a city office, clean it hard for two hours and then go home having only earned £11.86. I just couldn’t afford to live.
And then it struck me; I am in the perfect position to do something about this imbalance. However, the threat of losing some of our contracts due to increasing their costs was a genuine fear for the company: Enhance had been increasing its client base and turnover steadily over a number of years. Business was good, but I was worried that our clients wouldn’t agree to the increase to the London Living Wage as they all had to manage their own budgets and just because their cleaning firm thought it was a good idea, maybe they wouldn’t.
I knew that in a market like London, with hundreds of firms offering cleaning services, a USP that differentiated Enhance from its competitors might be useful – and it was. Very quickly I realised that the majority of my clients agreed with what I believed; that if you want a loyal and reliable workforce who respect their employer and work hard for them, then you need to pay them a fair wage. One by one Enhance’s client base agreed to support the London Living Wage, persuaded by the powerful statistical evidence provided by the Living Wage Foundation that showed that by paying the London Living Wage, companies could dramatically improve retention, staff absence levels and employee work satisfaction.
I am extremely proud to say that as of today, 96% of our staff are paid the LLW and we’re working very hard on the other 4%!
Business has continued to grow. It’s true that we’ve sometimes not won contracts as some companies are simply not yet in a position to support the LLW, but those firms can still see the benefits and most are planning to support the London Living Wage when their budgets allow as they know that it will help them secure the best staff, especially with Brexit looming and the predicted reduction in European staff about to hit the cleaning industry. Competition to recruit and retain staff is going to be a massive issue, but not for Enhance.