Coming clean: contractual and procurement practices

Grimshaw D, Cartwright J, Keizer A, Rubery J, Hadjivassiliou K, Rickard C | Research Report 96 | Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) | Aug 2014

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A focus on the nature and influence of procurement is vital for an understanding of employment practices and working conditions in the commercial cleaning sector for several reasons:

  • Like other business services, cleaning activities are often procured from specialist subcontractors rather than managed in-house.
  • The strong cost focus of competition for contracts can exacerbate the vulnerable position of low-wage cleaners.
  • Client organisations' procurement and HR practices can filter through the supply chain to shape employment practices in the contractor firm.

Using a novel analytical framework for understanding how procurement shapes employment, this report presents the results of six case studies of outsourced cleaning services and draws out key implications for improving policy and practice.

Each case study is reported in the form of a narrative that highlights the specific characteristics of procurement practices and employment conditions.

In addition, key thematic issues are explored by comparing the results across the six cases. The themes consider pay, working time, skill and job design, integration and employment insecurity.