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Winner | Living Wage Advocate of the Year

I am delighted that we have been awarded ‘Advocate of the Year’ in this year’s Living Wage Champion Awards.

This award recognises our work promoting the Living Wage in the cleaning industry.

A Core Value

From the very beginning, Just Helpers Cleaning Agency have strived to pay above the Living Wage. Our cleaning team, who live in London, need to thrive in the city that they work and live in. And that means decent pay.

Workers in the cleaning sector are more likely to be female, racially diverse and non-native English speakers. My own experience working with anti-trafficking organisations showed me how vulnerable to to exploitation this population can be.

Sharing the Message

We were one of the first cleaning agencies in London to be recognised by the Living Wage Foundation. And as the founder of Just Helpers I have always promoted the London Living Wage both within our industry and beyond.

This means taking every opportunity to talk about the need for fair pay and decent working conditions in every sector. And with the current cost of living crisis, this is more important that ever.

The Cost of Cleaning

Our mission is to transform attitudes to cleaning services in the UK. So, I want everyone who engages a cleaner – whether in their home or business – to understand the real cost of ethical cleaning. It shouldn’t be about getting the cheapest service. It should be about valuing the expertise and skills of cleaners by paying the proper rate for their work.

Right now, the cleaning industry, alongside several other, traditionally low pay sectors, is experiencing major recruitment problems. We believe that by ensuring our Helpers receive above the London Living Wage, we can attract, and retain, skilled cleaning colleagues in a crowded market.

We want to share the message that the Living Wage not only benefits our colleagues, but also benefits us a business. And we hope that the Living Wage movement continues to grow as more businesses join. As a Living Wage Advocate, along with the Just Helpers team, I am so proud to be a part of it.

The Platinum Jubilee | 7 Decades of Cleaning Trends

Congratulations to her Majesty to Queen on her Platinum Jubilee.  At Just Helpers we’re celebrating by taking a trip through 7 decades of cleaning trends  – the products, the fads and the ads!

The Fifties

In this post-war decade we were looking towards a brighter future. And what could be more futuristic than the Space Race? The Hoover Constellation vacuum cleaner with Sputnik-inspired styling, actually took off – floating over the floor on a cushion of air. We have lift-off!

Back on earth, only around 33% of UK households owned a washing machine. But the growth in their popularity saw the launch of Daz washing powder – still going strong today.

The Sixties

A third of UK households had a fridge in the sixties, and twin-tub washers were the norm on laundry day. 

In the cleaning aisle Vim boasted your sink would be “the cleanest clean it’s ever been” due to it’s Clorox bleach-based germicidal formula. Did it smell as harsh as it sounds?

The Seventies

By 1970, 65% of households owned a washing machine – so it’s not surprising that this was the decade that saw the launch of fabric conditioner, to make all that laundry smell nice!

This decade also saw some of the most memorable TV ads for cleaning products. Who remembers the Shake n Vac ad, first shown in 1979? Can you still sing the jingle?

Astonish – one of our favourite brands – was launched in 1973, selling oven and cookware cleaner door to door.

The Eighties

This decade was all about convenience. We saved time cooking ready meals in the new microwave ovens, and whizzed through the washing with front loading, automatic washing machines. Ariel laundry liquid was launched in 1985, and Ecover, another Just Helpers favourite brand, started in 1989 in Belgium.

The Nineties

The nineties saw a cleaning revolution with the first bagless vacuum cleaners from Dyson. After struggling to get any interest in his design from UK manufacturers, James Dyson sold the first of his new cleaners in Japan – before taking the USA and UK market by storm.

Vacuum cleaning might have been undergoing a revolution, but traditional ideas about housework were still very common. The Daz Doorstep Challenge ads ran throughout the nineties, filling mums with the fear of their grubby whites appearing on national TV.

The Noughties

We saw more floor-cleaning innovation in this decade, with the rising popularity of the Roomba robot vacuum.

With consumers becoming more conscious of the environmental impact of cleaning products, there are more green ranges launched this decade. In 2001 Method launched their first products, and The Pink Stuff Miracle Cleaning Paste appeared on shelves.

The Tens

Instagram launched in 2010 and gained over 10 million users in the first year. And with it came the rise of the cleaning influencers, and their impact on cleaning trends. The “Mrs Hinch” effect saw 100 year old brand Zoflora floral disinfectant back in vogue, with followers eagerly sharing their favourite fragrances. 

The Twenties

We’re only a couple of years in, but it’s been quite a decade already! The COVID 19 pandemic unsurprisingly sparked a huge increase in global sales of surface cleaners. In addition, many people discovered the calming benefits of cleaning their homes during Lockdown. And we are seeing the rise of more eco-friendly cleaning trends – nicer for us, are homes, and the planet.

However you are celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we hope you have a wonderful time.

Recruitment Problems in Cleaning

For the first time in our history, we have recruitment problems. We are struggling to find Helpers to work with us.

In the past, sharing the benefits of working with Just Helpers – our great working conditions, paying at least the London Living Wage, our caring, supportive values – has been enough to attract the right people.

But now, we’re experiencing real difficulties. And we are not alone in our recruitment problems.

A recent report highlighted critical staff shortages in several sectors including retail, warehousing, airport baggage handling, cleaning, and hospitality. In fact, one quarter of medium sized UK companies are experiencing serious recruitment problems which threaten normal operations.

Why Recruitment Problems?

Anecdotally, we hear there’s unease amongst the sections of our communities who would often come to work for us. People who moved to live in the UK from parts of Europe such as Bulgaria, are feeling more uncertain. Since Brexit, they may feel unwelcome here. And the rise in the cost of living is adding to their worries. They are looking for higher pay than sectors like cleaning can afford.

Brexit Impact

Brexit has introduced restrictions on freedom to move to the UK for work. The emphasis is on highly qualified people, or those with skills which are under-represented in the UK workforce. Sadly, the list of Shortage Occupations” does not include many traditionally “blue collar” sectors such as cleaning. And with over 1.66 million active job adverts recorded in August 2021, UK job seekers are not choosing to work in cleaning.

The Pay Dilemma

You may be asking, why don’t we simply increase pay to attract people to work with us? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Small cleaning businesses may afford to do this, because their turnover is below the threshold for VAT. However, for medium-sized businesses like ours, the tax burden means that we cannot afford to increase pay without increasing our charges to our clients. And we know our clients are feeling the pinch too.

As well as the recruitment problems, this situation brings other ugly consequences. It plays into the “cash in hand” culture, which places workers at risk of breaking the law if they don’t declare their income. In addition, it further disadvantages bonafide, ethical businesses like ours who want to do the right thing.

So what is the solution to this recruitment crisis in the cleaning industry?

A Potential Workforce

There are thousands of people in the UK right now who are desperate to work, but are prevented from seeking a job because of their immigration status.

The war in Ukraine has brought refugees to this country who want to build a new life for themselves and their families. Ukrainian citizens who have family in the UK, or who are sponsored under the “Homes for Ukraine” scheme, can get a visa which enables them to work here.

However, for those outside of these schemes, the usual points-based immigration system applies, which means Ukrainians who could fill vacancies in sectors such as cleaning, would not be eligible.

In addition, in the UK there are many people who have fled countries other than Ukraine, who are unable to work. These are asylum seekers, who may have to wait months or years for their asylum claim to be processed. During this time they are not allowed get a job, and are trying to survive on as little as £5.66 per day. And under new plans from the UK government, those arriving through illegal routes may be sent across the world to Rwanda.

This seems illogical, as well as inhumane. In a situation which echoes that which brought the Windrush generation to our aid after the Second World War, we need people to fill our vacancies in these key sectors.

Allowing asylum seekers to work in sectors where we have a real recruitment crisis would help the UK economy. It would alleviate shortages on supermarket shelves, and reduce the need for price rises for consumers. And it would give real hope and dignity to people who are simply looking for a safe place to live.

Our Mission

Just Helpers was founded in response to the exploitation of vulnerable people in our cities – including migrant workers. We provide our people with decent working conditions, fair pay and the chance to reach their potential through support and mentoring.

We would welcome the opportunity to recruit people from Ukraine, and elsewhere, who share our values and want to be part of the Just Helpers family. Because we need them to grow our business, just as much as they need us.

Antoinette in Woman Magazine

Easter in Ukraine

This Easter, our thoughts and prayers are with Ukraine.

At Just Helpers we are working to support our Helper Olia, who is from Ukraine, at this very difficult time. I asked Olia how her family would usually be celebrating Easter.

“Easter in Ukraine is a very big celebration, second only to Christmas. In Ukrainian we call Easter ‘Velykden’ which means ‘Great Day’. We celebrate Easter in the Julian Calendar, so it will be the 24th April in Ukraine. As I now live in London, I celebrate Easter twice!

Many of the traditions around Easter in Ukraine as the same as Christian traditions in other parts of the world, but we have some which are particular to our folklore.

Easter Preparations

We start preparing the week before Easter, in Holy Week, which is the week following Palm Sunday. The Thursday of Holy Week is called “Clean Thursday” where we clean the house inside and out. We go to the cemetery to clean the graves of our loved ones, and to plant flowers. We also make painted, decorated eggs called Pysanka.

The Food

We prepare the special food which we will eat at Easter. Food is a very important part of our celebrations. We bake a sweet bread called “Paska” which is similar to panattone. This is part of our Easter basket, along with eggs, butter cheese and salt The contents of the Easter basket is different depending on the traditions of the village where you live.

Food is particularly important at Easter in Ukraine because traditionally people fast during Lent. Nowadays, for many people that might mean giving up meat, but in the past they would also have avoided eating eggs and cheese as well.

On Good Friday, many people will fast all day. They will go to church, read the Bible and pray.

On Saturday, everyone takes their Easter basket to the church to be blessed, but we can’t start eating it until Sunday!

On Easter Sunday, the whole family go to Mass together. We greet each other with “Christ is Risen!” and we will use this greeting when we meet friends and family for a month after Easter.

After church we have a big family feast and we are finally able to enjoy the treats in our Easter basket.

Spring Games

Children will get together in the church yard to play Spring games, such as Hide and Seek. They have “egg battles”, knocking their painted eggs together until they break. The last egg to break is the winner!

The Monday after Easter is a day for remembering family and friends who have died, with a special service in church. This day is also known as “Wet Monday” when children pour water over each other and themselves . In the cities, there are organised events so that children can have fun with water games, and the adults can stay dry!

Easter in London

I have lived in London since August 2020, and I follow many of these traditions with my family here. We make an Easter basket, and take it to be blessed in church. The children have egg battles and throw water around on Wet Monday – fortunately many of our neighbours are Ukrainian so they understand!

My family in Ukraine

This Easter of course I will be thinking of my family back home. My family are safe for now, but the war is getting closer. They live in Western Ukraine, not far from the border with Poland. Recently an empty factory just 7 kilometres was hit by a missile.

We feel very helpless so far away, but we need to stay strong, and provide support in whatever way we can.

We are very grateful for the help being offered by the British people, and we are praying that the war will end soon, and Ukraine will be able to rebuild.”

Olia’s charity of choice is UNICEF.

Antoinette’s Christmas 2020 Message

Despite the many challenges of 2020, there are signs of hopeful change that we can all hold on to.

What a difference a year makes! Last Christmas, my parting words were, “may you know love in action this year”. Who knew the tremendous worldwide challenge, loss, heartache, confusion, unity, resilience, and love that the Corona Virus pandemic would force into place.

Standing Together

I know that 2020 has been an immense year of cyclical challenges, but I want to reflect on some of the grace notes that have kept me going and shown just how wonderful human beings can be.

  • The resilience of the NHS and our pride and support of it
  • This renewed concept of shielding, and making sacrificial decisions to keep our loved ones safe
  • The real and encouraging shift that seems to be taking place within our thinking and culture, following the tragic murder of George Floyd and the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement
  • The sense of communities coming together to support and help each other out.

As we look forward to a year that will see the development of a vaccine and our exit from the EU, I hope that our sense of standing together and being kind to our neighbours is not forgotten.

My Thanks

I want to take this opportunity to thank our long-standing clients who fully embraced the cost of enabling their Helper to have 4 weeks paid leave, who continue to treat their Helper like an extended member of their family, and who remember that far from being an invisible magic fairy, that they too have hopes and dreams.

I want to thank our fabulous cleaning colleagues, our team of Helpers who faithfully and resiliently continue to deliver excellent cleans, exhibiting deep nurturing care for their clients week by week.

I want to thank the office team who have tirelessly worked, worried, planned, adapted, pivoted through the whole of this year, and still continue to help create exceedingly excellent cleaning experiences for everyone in the Just Helpers community.

I know that Christmas may look different for each of us this year. But may you know good health, strong community and be filled with hope as we look forward into next year.

Merry Christmas

Antoinette and the Just Helpers Team

Doing the Right Thing with Just Helpers – Lydia’s Story

When Lydia first met Just Helpers Founder Antoinette, she knew she wanted to be part of it.

Doing the right thing is at the heart of Just Helpers, from a commitment to fairness, to the London Living Wage, and this appealed to Lydia straight away.“It was an instant click,” she says. “Antoinette’s ethos, passion and commitment is so inspirational.”

Working for Just Helpers

Lydia is our Finance and Enquiries Manager, and brought valuable experience to the business. Before taking a break to care for her children, Lydia had worked as an Executive Assistant to the Chief Information Officer in a large insurance company. A friend, ActionCoach James Dodd, introduced her to Just Helpers.

For Lydia, it’s the people that make Just Helpers so special. “We are a fabulous team,” she says. “We’re passionate about ensuring that we do the right thing for our clients, our Helpers and the company, and I’m proud to be part of it.”

Doing the right thing in 2020

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lydia sees dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as being the biggest challenge she has faced with Just Helpers. After weeks of uncertainty, the team had make sure that the business could continue to deliver a service in a way that is safe for clients and Helpers alike. Again, for Lydia, it was the people that made it possible. “Our Helpers carried on, our clients supported us, we supported each other. If we hadn’t been as strong and determined, I don’t think we would have survived this far.”

Job Satisfaction

As well as the flexibility of working from home, Lydia enjoys the opportunities for learning at just Helpers. Her role has provided lots of opportunity to develop new skills, through working in different areas of the business as well as learning new software applications.

Again, Lydia recognises that the team has played a big role in her development too. “I really value feedback from the team. I’m quite a talkative person and I’ve learned to listen more, and pause before I speak. I was already quite calm but It’s made me calmer.”

As the first point of contact for new clients, Lydia spends a lot of time of the phone. “It can be quite nerve-racking, but I really enjoy it and I’m developing my communication skills all the time,” she says.

The satisfaction of working for a business that is doing the right thing makes it all worthwhile for Lydia. “I get up every day and look forward to doing my job,” she says, … “I look forward to all our dreams and aspirations coming to fruition.”

Find out more about how Just Helpers is doing the right thing, on our website.

The Real Cost of Cleaning – Creating Change in the Cleaning Industry

I founded Just Helpers after seeing first hand the exploitation which migrant workers – and particularly women – were experiencing in our cities. I wanted to offer an alternative – a cleaning business which paid fairly, offered decent working conditions and developed potential in our people.

I’m proud of what Just Helpers has achieved. But if we are to see meaningful change in the cleaning industry, we need to address the real cost of cleaning. We need to tackle some fundamental issues, nationally. And we can’t do that alone.

A Clean Conscience?

A recent report from Clean For Good, our main ‘running mate’ in the cleaning industry, estimated that in 2020, 60% of workers in the cleaning sector still earn less than the Living Wage.

The report states that the Low Pay Commission estimate 1 in 5 cleaners in the UK who were entitled to the Minimum Wage were actually being paid less than this by their employer. Remember – the Minimum wage is widely recognised to be a poverty wage, which means that someone working full time being paid the Minimum Wage would still be living in poverty.

The Clean For Good report urged businesses who are outsourcing cleaning, to ensure that their cleaning provider shares their values. “Too many employers don’t just outsource a service, they unwittingly outsource their values and responsibilities too.”

The Challenges we Face

We share the vision expressed in the Clean For Good report.  However, while Clean For Good focus on providing commercial cleaning,  at Just Helpers, we want to provide domestic cleaning to ethically minded individuals in their own homes.

But, we face some big challenges.

 Price – The Real Cost of Cleaning

We pass as much of the cleaning charge as possible on to our Helpers. All of our Helpers receive the London Living Wage.

However, we also need to keep our charges as low as we can so we remain affordable to our clients.

The challenge is to pay our Helpers a decent wage, while remaining competitive in a crowded cleaning market.

We want to highlight the real cost of domestic cleaning. That’s not just about the amount your cleaner is paid. It’s also about the cost to their health and well-being of low wages, and uncertain income.

We want to reveal the cleaning industry’s dirty secret of exploitation, low wages and poor working conditions. And, we want to offer an ethical, quality, affordable alternative to people who want a clean home and a clean conscience.

Survival – A Profitable Business

Since April 2020 the domestic side of our business has been profitable for the first time. This is as a result of some changes we made to our contracts. We increased our rates, and we now require our clients to pay for their cleaning, even if they cancel.

This is important so that our business can survive tough economic times and continue to offer decent, predictable pay to our Helpers, and a quality, reliable service to our clients.

Taxation -An Unfair Burden

We believe that low margin industries like ours should sit within a lower VAT bracket.

Currently, cleaning services are subject to 20% VAT. This high tax burden encourages illegal practices such as “cash in hand”.

In the current COVID-19 climate, some industries such as hospitality have been moved into a lower VAT bracket to help them survive.

We would like to see the cleaning industry moved into the 5% VAT bracket, permanently.  This would lead to better regulation, better working conditions and ultimately more money being paid by our industry in taxation.

Changes to Employment  Law

The “gig economy” has been the subject of much criticism recently. However, the fact remains that some workers want the flexibility that being self-employed offers. Plus, the additional costs of being an employer, and the risks associated with uncertain income, mean that we, like many cleaning businesses, cannot afford to directly employ our Helpers.

We need changes to employment law to protect workers and protect businesses, so that direct employment becomes viable.

Sharing the Challenge

My passion is for people, and for tackling injustice and doing the right thing.

But these challenges are too big for me to tackle alone. I need people with the know-how to navigate these issues, so that we can achieve change for the cleaning industry at national level.

Will you join me? Get involved – join our End Exploitation Facebook Group and share your energy, experience and expertise to help us.

Getting the most from your dishwasher

Many of us have a dishwasher in our kitchen – but do we use them effectively? Here are our top dishwasher tips for getting the best from yours.

 

What do those buttons do?

Lots of dishwashers have fancy features that we never use! But they are worth investigating as they could save you money and time. Here’s a few you might have:

  • Eco – this setting uses less energy and water so it’s good for the environment and your pocket. Which estimate that using an eco program could save £300 over a year!
  • Pre-wash – this program rinses your dishes, so it’s useful if you don’t want to run a full wash every day.
  • Timer – set your dishwasher to finish as you get home from work, or to run overnight.
  • Delicate – A gentle wash for fine crockery or glasses.
  • Adjustable racks – If you can’t fit your new plates in the dishwasher, don’t panic! Check to see if you can adjust the height of the top rack to make more space.

 

Load it up!

The key to clean dishes is to make sure the water can get to all the surfaces. This sounds obvious, but if you overload your dishwasher, you might find some items aren’t cleaned.

  • Make sure dirty surfaces face inwards, towards the water jets.
  • Avoid placing big items (baking trays or platters) close to the centre, where they will block jets from reaching everything else. Put them at the sides.
  • Some items such as plastic cups or delicate glasses should only be placed on the top rack, where the wash is gentler and the temperature lower.

 

Not just for dishes

Your dishwasher can clean lots of items around the home as long as they are dishwasher-safe! Try these:

  • Plastic toys – place them on the top rack and put small items in the cutlery basket.
  • Make-up brushes – always benefit from a good clean to get rid of excess product and bacteria.
  • Keys – these harbour a surprising level of germs!
  • Dishcloths and sponges – pop them in the top rack to freshen them up.
  • Flip-flops! We’ve heard you can clean these really well in the top rack though you might prefer to do this separately from your dishes.

Remember it’s always a great idea to check the user guide for your dishwasher. Many are available online too.

 

Do you have any dishwasher tips? We would love to hear them!

How to Clean Your Fridge with Antoinette

Cleaning the fridge is one of those tasks that’s easy to overlook. But a clean fridge helps to keep your food fresher for longer, and stops the spread of potentially harmful bacteria.

Just Helpers Founder Antoinette shares her top tips on how to clean your fridge with minimum fuss.

When to Clean Your Fridge

It’s a good idea to clean your fridge at most every 3 months. Of course, if something spills in the fridge it’s best to wipe it up straight away. This is especially important for milk, which will smell bad if it isn’t cleaned up quickly. Wiping up sticky spills as they happen will also make it easier to clean your fridge.

To clean your fridge thoroughly, you need to empty it first. So, it makes sense to clean your fridge before you go to the supermarket or before your delivery arrives. That way, you will have less food to store whilst you clean.

Before you Start to Clean Your Fridge

Now is the time to have a good sort through the contents of your fridge.

  • Throw away any food which is out of date or inedible – don’t forget those half jars of chutney left over from Christmas!
  • Empty your vegetable drawers and salad crisper.
  • Take everything out of the door racks – get rid of flat fizzy drinks or the dregs in wine bottles.
  • Put perishable food (especially meat, fish and dairy products) into a cool bag or box with frozen chill packs to keep them fresh while you clean.
  • Finally, check the manufacturer’s instructions for your fridge for any special precautions.

How to Clean Your Fridge – Step by Step

  1. If possible, pull out your fridge. Vacuum around, underneath and behind it, and wash the floor.
  2.  Remove the drawers, crisper and shelves.  Leave them on the kitchen counter to come up to room temperature before washing. This is especially important for glass shelves which can shatter with a sudden change in temperature.
  3. Wipe all the surfaces inside the fridge including the door. Avoid using bleach or strong-smelling cleaning products which can taint the food. A solution of bicarbonate of soda, vinegar or Milton is ideal. Bicarbonate of soda is also great for neutralising odours if a spill has gone unnoticed and resulted in a nasty niff!  Cotton buds are great for cleaning fiddly corners. Dry thoroughly with a clean tea towel.
  4. If you notice a pool of water at the bottom of  your fridge, it’s likely that your drip-hole is blocked. Find this at the back of the fridge – a cocktail stick is useful to clean it.
  5. Wash the shelves, drawers and crisper in hot soapy water (washing up liquid is perfect). Remember to remove the plastic guard strips from each of the shelves. These often need a good soak and a scrubbing brush to get to the bottom of the narrow crevices. Don’t be tempted to pop them in the dishwasher either  – it’s too hot. I also find that it leaves watermarks on the  plastic components.  Dry thoroughly before putting them back in the fridge.
  6. Don’t forget the outside of the fridge. A micro-fibre cloth is great for getting a streak-free finish. Use a vacuum to clean crumbs and debris from the door seal and wipe with your bicarbonate of soda solution. Dry thoroughly.
  7. Now you’re done! Let your fridge get back to the correct temperature before re-filling it (a fridge thermometer is useful for this).

Keeping your Fridge Clean

Now that your fridge is fresh and clean, you’ll want to keep it that way! Try these tips for fridge organisation.

  • Wipe the outside and bottom of jars and bottles before you put them back in the fridge.
  • Try to put everything back in an organised way so you can find things.
  • Try to put food which needs to be used first closest to the front.
  • Consider using labelled baskets or trays to keep similar foods together (cheese, yoghurts, jams etc)
  • Organise your vegetable drawers, with tender products such as salad leaves separate from heavier, more robust veg such as carrots or sweet potatoes. This will stop them getting crushed and spoiled.
  • Label your left-overs and plan when you will use them, or freeze them so they last longer.
  • Write the date on jars or bottles when you open them – that way you can be sure to use them up while they are still fresh, and avoid waste.
  • When you do your big shop, get into the habit of checking and pruning current items before adding more stuff in. Take this opportunity to give shelves and doors a quick wipe too.

Need a hand cleaning your home?

Life in London is demanding and time is at a premium. Get some sparkle back into your life and home with one of our domestic cleaning packages.

Looking for commercial cleaning?

We provide a regular cleaning service for offices and commercial premises in the Greater London area, helping you maintain a professional, healthy and productive work and business environment.

We’d love to chat with you, see your space and walk you through our process.

Call us

020 3995 4810 - Clients
020 3995 4820 - Helpers

Email us

info@justhelpers.co.uk

Our office

Kings Parade, Lower Coombe Road, Croydon, CR0 1AA

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