Security in cleaning

Hundreds of thousands of people work illegally in the UK, and unscrupulous employers have taken advantage of this in the past. Julius Rutherfoord wants to see levels of security vetting improved across the professional cleaning industry, says operations director Chris Parkes.

Despite facing fines of up to £5,000 per worker for employing illegal workers, some employers not only take this risk, but also use the vulnerable status of illegal workers to exploit them. According to UK Home Office data, an estimated 500,000 to 900,000 people work illegally in Britain, many in the capital.

Unfortunately, the cleaning industry has attracted attention for this issue in the past. It is a sector well-known for its high staff turnover, and while the best contract cleaners are working hard to improve staff retention through training and development, some seek to victimise workers, placing them and the facilities they clean at risk.

However, corrupt and unscrupulous employers have sought to take advantage of illegal workers in the past. In one case, members of management at a cleaning contractor which employed tens of thousands of operatives working in the healthcare sector were arrested for allegedly blackmailing illegally-employed cleaning operatives. The resulting media attention also had implications for the reputations of the healthcare facilities that were being cleaned, as well as for the company involved.

This serves as just one example of why facilities managers need to know what best practice looks like when it comes to security vetting in contract cleaning. All staff, from directors to cleaners, whether recruited directly or inherited through the Transfer of Undertakings process (TUPE), must have the legal right to work in the UK and pose no threat to your business. As technology advances, the professional cleaning industry should be moving towards a more system’s based approach to vetting staff and improving the safe delivery of cleaning.

Forged or out-of-date IDs

During the initial security vetting of staff Julius Rutherfoord inherit through TUPE, we often reject between 20-40% due to forged or out-of-date IDs. That shows just how complacent some contractors have become – and how strong security measures need to be. Fake documents should not pass if rigorous security vetting procedures are in place.

The best cleaning contractors will go above and beyond Disclosure & Barring Service checks when verifying identities, and have extra document authentication and pre-employment screening processes in place. Cleaning operatives can also be protected while working thanks to biometric time and attendance recognition, and GPS fleet monitoring – technology that also assures cleaning supervisors and facilities managers that the right people are on the right site at the right time.


We all have responsibilities to ensure that facilities being cleaned and cleaning operatives themselves stay safe and secure. Cleaning operatives often access facilities out of normal working hours, and cleaning contractors must have effective vetting procedures in place to safeguard the security of a site and the cleaning team, whilst guaranteeing a high level of service.

Julius Rutherfoord has published a new best practice white paper – Security in Cleaning – together with an accompanying infographic (available to download, also shown above) to highlight the challenges of ensuring the safety and security of facilities being cleaned and the operatives cleaning them. We have developed tried and tested processes which we want to share – staff and contractors have the right to work in a safe environment.

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