Cleaners: Invisible Workforce


Most Latin American women arrive in the UK with skills and qualifications and while most are in work, this is mostly in low skilled and low paid jobs in cleaning, catering and hospitality services, they experience high levels of labour exploitation and live their lives in poverty.

As part of our work in the recognition for equal rights for Latin American women and work against labour exploitation, LAWRS has participated in the report of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. 

The EHRC carried out a research about working conditions in the cleaning sector, it show that many workers do not have their employment rights upheld, they may be bullied or discriminated against by supervisors, experience problems obtaining their pay, have excessive workloads and are not treated with dignity or respect.

The key finding of the report show that:

  • Migrant workers reported difficulties understanding basic employment documentation and some reported discriminatory treatment.
  • Although most pregnant women were treated well, some reported poor treatment or even being sacked or dismissed as a result of their pregnancy.
  • Low pay is prevalent across the sectorwith wages close to, or at, the National Minimum Wage
  • Many workers expressed concerns about changes to terms and conditions, perceptions of different treatment and non-payment of wages.
  • Workers were often not aware of these procedures, and many were scared of complaining in case they lost their job.
  • Work intensification appears to be a growing problem with many workers reporting unrealistic workloads, some workers felt pressurised into coming into work when they were sick.

The recommendations are:

  • Improve working conditions for cleaning operatives.
  • Raise awareness of employment rights.
  • Establish more responsible procurement practices.

At LAWRS we believe that the work of the cleaning sector should be recognised and be treated fairly with dignity and respect as any other job and that employers should be aware of the working conditions of their employees and not be accomplice when an illegality is occurring.

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