Hiring a cleaner for your home is a great way to free up valuable time.

But how can you be sure your cleaner is working here legally? 

People coming to the UK who may have low levels of English or few recognised qualifications often find themselves working in the cleaning sector. While working as a cleaner can be a good source of regular employment, sadly illegal working and exploitation is common.

So if you are hiring a cleaner, it’s vital that you carry out basic checks for your own peace of mind.

The documents

Ask to see your cleaner’s passport. This is a good first step to make sure your cleaner is working here legally. Whatever nationality you believe they have, ask for their passport. That way you avoid getting caught out by incorrect assumptions.

If they have a British or Irish passport, they have the right to work in the UK. If their passport was issued in another country, it should have a stamp from the UK Home Office showing their right to work. Find more information about using passports and immigration documents to check your cleaner is working here legally here.

Your cleaner may be able to provide you with a ‘share code’ to prove their right to work. You can find more information about this here

Hiring a cleaner through an agency

If you use an agency to arrange your cleaning, they should carry out the appropriate checks. This includes ensuring cleaners on their books have the right to work in the UK. However, it is always a good idea to ask how the agency vet their cleaners, so you can be sure your cleaner is working here legally. 

When you are looking for a cleaning agency, ask friends and colleagues for recommendations. Is the agency transparent about the fees they charge, and how much of this they pay to their cleaners? Do their cleaners receive the Real Living Wage? What about sick pay and holiday pay? These are all good indicators that a cleaning agency is reputable, and that they will have ensured that your cleaner is working here legally. 

Exploitation: Spotting the signs

Slavery is not confined to the history books. In fact, modern slavery and exploitation is all around us in our towns and cities. So when you are checking that your cleaner is working here legally, look out for signs of exploitation. People who do not have a legal right to work in the UK are at particular risk of exploitation. They may be in fear of deportation, and this can also make them reluctant to report their situation. 

Here are some common signs which should alert you that something isn’t right. 

  • Someone else has possession of their passport
  • Someone asks you to pay your cleaner’s earnings into a bank account under a different name
  • Someone drops off your cleaner and picks them up from their workplace 
  • Your cleaner is accompanied by someone else when they meet you, and are reluctant to speak for themselves. 
  • They wear clothes that aren’t suitable for the work they are doing. 
  • They are living in overcrowded accommodation and are unable to move. 
  • They seem frightened, or confused.

If you suspect someone is a victim of modern slavery or exploitation, you can report it to Unseen. Unseen is a charity which supports victims and campaigns to end modern slavery. Find out more about how to contact Unseen here.

Peace of mind that your cleaner is working here legally

Employing a cleaner who does not have a legal right to work here can have serious consequences. It could result in you being prosecuted, fined or even jailed. So if you are unsure, it’s important to get expert advice. By carrying out some simple checks, and asking some key questions, you can protect yourself, and also help end modern slavery and exploitation in our communities.

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I’m Antoinette and the CEO of Just Helpers Cleaning Agency. I’m passionate about social justice and empowering people to find their joy, work from a place of strength and positively impact the world around them. When not trying to save the world 😉 I love cooking up a storm in my kitchen and eating and chatting around a table with friends. Find me at antoinettedaniel.com.

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