- That ISS cleaners are paid at least the Living Wage as defined by the Living Wage Foundation, £8.45 an hour nationally and £9.75 in London, and that supervisory staff pay is raised to £10 an hour nationally and £11.30 in London, with annual cost of living increases.
- That ISS cleaners are given occupational sick pay, with the same rights as directly employed HMRC staff.
- That ISS cleaners are given the same holiday entitlement as directly employed HMRC staff, with up to 32 days leave a year, plus bank holidays and a privilege holiday.
- That ISS ensure that there are enough staff to do the job, by offering increased working hours where the cleaners want them and by recruiting more staff as necessary.
- That ISS cleaning staff are brought in-house and directly employed by HMRC.
The Living Wage
The majority of cleaning staff employed by ISS are paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW), currently set at £6.70 for workers aged 21 and over. This is the legal minimum that the employer can get away with paying, and far from adequate to live on.
ISS declares proudly on their website that they “are committed to supporting a Living Wage so that all of our workers can afford a basic standard of living.” Yet its employees on the HMRC estate fall short of the £8.25 per hour rate that the Living Wage Foundation has calculated is necessary for an employee to “achieve an adequate level of warmth and shelter, a healthy palatable diet, social integration and avoidance of chronic stress.”
How little lip service ISS pays to their commitment is demonstrated by the fact that the amount they pay their supervisors has completely stagnated, so that with the introduction of the government’s so-called National Living Wage in April 2016, they will be receiving the exact same rate of pay as all other cleaning staff despite a higher level of responsibility.
Occupational sick pay
The majority of ISS cleaners in HMRC are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for absence due to illness. This is a flat weekly rate paid for by the government, with nothing given for the first three days of absence. In practice, as most people do not know how long they will be sick for when they fall ill, and as it is extremely difficult to survive on just £88.45 per week (equivalent to just thirteen hours’ wages on the NMW), this means workers will come into work sick or injured as they cannot afford not to.
The lack of proper sick pay is particularly concerning given that our members in ISS, due to the work that they do with strong chemicals and cleaning potentially very unhygienic areas, are particularly exposed to illness. We feel that refusal to provide a proper occupational sick pay scheme puts these workers at risk and is in contravention of the employer’s duty of care towards their employees.
The majority of ISS cleaners in HMRC are entitled to 28 days of paid holiday per year. As with wages and sick pay, this is the absolute minimum required by law, and includes bank holidays.
Staff directly employed by HMRC, on the other hand, are entitled to between 22 and 32 days of paid holiday, depending on their contract and length of service. Plus eight public holidays and a privilege holiday.
Over several years, ISS has implemented cuts not only to the number of staff it has employed on the HMRC estate but also to the amount of hours that they are contracted to. This has a direct and negative effect on the finances, health and workloads of ISS staff, but also on the condition of the HMRC estate within which directly employed staff work.
Due to their low pay, many cleaners will depend on in-work benefits in order to survive. Often, these are conditional on working a certain number of hours, and cuts to hours may not only mean an immediate drop in wages but a loss of benefits.
At the same time, while the amount of space that needs cleaning remains the same, the time and number of people to do it is significantly less. This means that cleaners are being over-worked, which can result not only in significant stress but also possibly physical injuries.
An in-house service
Public services should be provided by workers in the public sector. This goes for those who clean government offices as much as for those dealing with people’s tax affairs.
Not only is it better value for money for the taxpayer, as money isn’t being funneled to the coffers of private companies, but it provides far greater security and better working conditions for the workers involved.