Home / Cleaning and Hygiene / Cleaning, hygiene and waste sector ‘in recovery’ after Covid-19 pandemic, finds research

Cleaning, hygiene and waste sector ‘in recovery’ after Covid-19 pandemic, finds research

Newly-published research by the British Cleaning Council (BCC)  shows how the cleaning, hygiene and waste sector is “in recovery” after the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, and remains one of the 10 biggest sectors in the UK.

Published today (13 March), the BCC’s latest figures show that the industry contributes nearly £59.8 billion to the economy. In 2019, the entire sector was worth £58.9 billion, but this dipped to £57 billion in 2020 before increasing again in 2021. All subsectors, bar landscape service activities, saw growth in turnover in 2021 after a dip the previous year.

Level 2 Cleaning Hygiene Operative Apprenticeship

According to the 2024 report, there are a number of positive developments for the industry to build on including the launch of the Level 2 Cleaning Hygiene Operative Apprenticeship.

The BCC says the launch of the Level 2 Cleaning Hygiene Operative Apprenticeship on 1 January is a “significant development for the sector which will bring major benefits”, enabling millions of pounds of Apprenticeship Levy funds paid annually by the sector to the Government to be invested in staff training instead.

Increased recognition for the sector post-pandemic

Other positive developments cited in the report include the increased recognition of the important role of cleaning and hygiene staff following the Covid-19 pandemic and evidence that the public are reassured by seeing cleaning staff at work in public spaces.

The BCC’s We Clean, We Care campaign also provides an opportunity to bring BCC members and the wider industry together to raise the profile of the sector and its staff.

Staff shortages

However, the report also shows how the cleaning, hygiene and waste sector faces a “perfect storm of severe staff shortages” and an ageing workforce.

If occupations involved in cleaning across other industries such as public services and hospitality are included, the total number of individuals working in the industry is 1.47 million. This equates to approximately five per cent of the UK workforce.

The sector continues to grow, with a reported 75,565 businesses operating in 2023, up from 73,655 businesses operating in 2022, most of which are micro-businesses.

The research report points out that the industry continues to struggle to replace staff who have left the sector in the wake of the pandemic and Brexit, with other staff having moved to new roles. There are a record number of job vacancies across the UK in a wide variety of industries, adding to the recruitment challenge, it says.

With only nine per cent of staff aged under 25 and 27 per cent aged over 55 years, the “industry as a whole needs to continue to do more to attract younger workers into the sector. Continuing to raise the profile of the industry is vital to attract workers,” the report says.


The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry’s report Embedding Effective Hygiene For A Resilient UK report is a key asset highlighting the importance of making cleaning and hygiene a national priority, but in the three years since the APPG for the industry was established, the report states there has been “minimal engagement on the part of the Government” in areas other than the apprenticeship.

BCC Chair Delia Cannings said: “Our annual research report about the cleaning, hygiene and waste industry is a key document for the sector. It takes a detailed, informative and rigorous look at the industry and its sub-sectors, full of revealing statistics and facts. If you are interested in reading the report, please contact us and we will be happy to provide a free copy.

“The report highlights the essential role of the sector and its staff in keeping the nation’s workplaces, hospitals, educational establishments, transport facilities and public spaces safe, clean and pleasant to use, contributing to the nation’s health and wealth.

“That vital contribution to infection prevention and control became so much more visible during the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the importance of the sector in the wider public consciousness. The pandemic has left many of the current workforce mentally and physically exhausted – particularly those in the healthcare sector.

“The report demonstrates that the cleaning, hygiene and waste sector remains one of the 10 largest in the UK, though it has been impacted by the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic shock of Brexit and is still in recovery. There are some positive developments to build on and also some issues still needing to be overcome.”

To obtain a free, digital copy of the BCC’s 2024 research report email compsec@britishcleaningcouncil.org

Eptura 2023 Workplace Index 

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  • CO2 Targets and Costs

To download the report click here.

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