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Sometimes You Have to Pay More [Modern Slavery in the Cleaning Industry]

February 3rd, 2022 | 6 min. read

Sometimes You Have to Pay More [Modern Slavery in the Cleaning Industry]

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Let me ask you a simple, yet important question.

Would you be happy being paid less than what you deserve?

Now I have no doubt that you probably answered that question pretty quickly with a hard, resounding NO.

And so you should. We all deserve to be paid fairly for a fair day’s work.

So what am I getting at…why am I telling you this?

Well, do you remember the recent scandals in the press about major companies in Australia underpaying their staff? What if I told you that this happens in the cleaning industry.

Modern slavery in the cleaning industry hasn’t been highlighted or spoken about enough and that’s why we’re here. At In-Tec, we’ve been around long enough to know that modern slavery in commercial cleaning is common and needs to be addressed.

But why should this matter to you?

As you’ll soon find out, this article will both define modern slavery and explain how it affects you and your workplace in terms of cleanliness and productivity.

Let’s get into it.

What is modern slavery in commercial cleaning?


If I could describe one word for modern slavery in the cleaning industry it’d be rampant.

What we mean by modern slavery is underpaying and undervaluing cleaners. Essentially, it’s treating cleaners like second-rate citizens.

Let’s paint you a picture.

You realise you need a cleaning company so you engage one who has given you a price that makes you go “wow amazing, I can’t believe I can get my premises cleaned for such a small amount of money!”

Now, the cleaning company you’ve hired will probably be using the contractor model. And what happens with this model is they generally tend to contract out the work to another party who is being paid under the award rate. To clarify, you will have engaged XYZ cleaning company, but then XYZ will contract out to ABC and possibly even DEF. Unfortunately, it’s a never-ending cycle and you’ll find that the cleaner who ends up cleaning your workplace is being severely underpaid.

In the commercial cleaning industry, this is known as sham contracting.

Instead of being paid $27 an hour, the cleaner is most likely being paid around $15 an hour. To top this off, they may even have to supply everything.

This is classified as modern slavery under federal government legislation – a lot of companies don’t realise this legislation exists.

To give you a comparison, in some other cleaning companies, cleaners are paid around $20-$25 an hour. However, from this hourly rate, the cleaners have to supply their own equipment, ensure they have public liability insurance, and cover their costs to and from work. So, the $25 an hour quickly becomes $15 an hour after you take all those additional costs into account.

Whereas, at In-Tec, our cleaners are paid $27 an hour and we supply them with everything they possibly need to get the job done. In other words, they aren’t left to fend for themselves.

But what does modern slavery in the cleaning industry have to do with you? Why should you care?

Let’s find out.

How modern slavery in the cleaning industry affects you?

You may not believe it, but if your cleaners are treated like slaves, it won’t do any good for them, but it also won’t do any good for you.

The ramifications of modern slavery in the cleaning industry are vast.

Take this as an example.

Because a contractor is paid so little, they generally try to get in and out of a site as quickly as possible to earn as much money as they can.

So, if you imagine someone is being paid $20 an hour and they work 40 hours a week, that totals to $800 a week. And yes, that is a chunk of money, but there is something you have to remember. Out of that $800, the cleaner still has to take all their other costs into account such as equipment, insurance, and getting to and from work. After they’ve done that, their weekly earnings probably drop to about $600 a week!

Think about it. Could you live off $600 a week in this day and age? I know I couldn’t.

And this is exactly why a contractor will clean your site quickly. They do the job as quick as they can so they can move on to the next. They juggle multiple jobs because they need to earn that extra money.

This is where it really starts affecting you.

Inevitably what happens, is you complain to the company that your site isn’t being cleaned to the standard you were promised. But the fact is, they can’t deliver it.


As long as people are being underpaid and aren’t given the right time, training, and tools to get the job done, you’re constantly going to have issues.

And one important thing to mention is that 9 out of 10 times, it isn’t the cleaner’s fault, instead, it’s the cleaning company’s fault. They’re the ones that should be looking after their staff properly. It’s as simple as that.

So, next time you’re sifting through quotes from a cleaning company, think about whether you want to choose the cheapest quote because it saves you money, or whether you want a cleaning company that values its employees.

How much should a cleaner be paid?

Unfortunately, modern slavery is everywhere and in some cases, we can’t escape it.

But, there is one thing we can all do to eliminate modern slavery in the cleaning industry. Either:

A: pay our staff the correct wages (to the minute) with the current entitlements and oncosts


B: you hire a cleaning company that pays their employees by the correct award rate. Demand that the company you hire or are currently with prove to you that their cleaners are paid correctly. For example, you could ask to see a work cover summary or a cleaners timesheet/payslips.

Whether you’re looking at hiring a cleaning company or you are a cleaning company yourself, there is certainly something you can do to clean up modern slavery in this industry.

But before you can do anything to help, you need to know how much a commercial cleaner should be paid.

I’ll start off by being simple and clear. According to the Cleaning Services Award, a casual daytime cleaner should be paid $27.14 an hour. Whereas, a casual cleaner who works night shifts should be paid $30.39 an hour.

Now, the full cost for a cleaning company to engage and employ a cleaner is $39.07 an hour. Although this may seem like a lot, it actually includes everything a cleaner is entitled to receive such as the correct wage, allowances, oncosts, and leave entitlements.

When I mean leave entitlements, I’m talking about annual leave, sick leave, or compassionate leave. In terms of allowances, cleaners receive these on top of their wages such as toilet cleaning or broken shift duties. And last but not least, they are entitled to worker compensation insurance, superannuation, and much more.

After all, cleaners are just like any employee out there in any industry. They’re just like us and should be treated as such.

🔍 If you’re interested in diving deeper into what contributes to the $39.07 an hour, feel free to take a look at our article How Much Do Commercial Cleaning Companies Pay Their Employees? In there, you’ll find the exact rates a full time versus part-time cleaner earns and all the nitty-gritty things when it comes to oncosts etc.

Modern slavery in the cleaning industry is rife

The fact is, modern slavery is everywhere, but it shouldn’t be. And certainly not in the commercial cleaning industry.

Next time you see your cleaner, you know, the one that’s actually doing the hard work to keep your site clean, ask them one question. “Are you being paid correctly?”

Then the next question you need to ask yourself is, if you think they aren’t being paid correctly are you happy to put up with that?

Are you happy to keep paying for a cleaning service because it’s cheap and is saving you money at the expense of a human being?

Now I don’t know about you, but we’re not. The team at In-Tec believe everyone should have a fair pay for a fair day’s work. However, it’s up to you to decide.

You want an employee-based cleaning company that respects its staff and pays them by the correct award rate. And you want this because it’s the right thing, and you’ll always see the advantages – your site will be cleaned to a high standard every time.

As we always say, “happy cleaners equals happy clients.”

To find out more about the different types of cleaning companies out there and which will be the best fit for you, read our article What are the 5 Types of Cleaning Services [Pros, Cons & Comparison].