In June 2018, the Senate referred an inquiry into the exploitation of general and specialist cleaners working in retail chains for contracting or subcontracting cleaning companies to the Education and Employment References Committee. A submission to this inquiry was made by the Centre for Social and Business Innovation at the University of Technology, and a colleague and myself participated in a public hearing in September 2018.
A growing body of evidence indicates the need for a consistent industry-wide approach for employment standards for cleaners; and the consideration of alternative business and employment models for the cleaning industry. Non-compliance with existing regulations right across the supply chain, have been found to disrupt tenant operations, and have resulted in negative outcomes for cleaners. These have included underpayments, the loss of superannuation payments, sham contracting arrangements, uncertainty and financial hardship. Addressing these issues will require a range of solutions, both regulatory and non-regulatory. While improved enforcement will address some issues, alternative business models and support for voluntary frameworks to establish industry-wide frameworks for employment standards pertaining to cleaners also have a role to play.