The boss of a Dundee firm has spoken of the financial hardship facing her industry.
Kelly Fairweather, who runs domestic cleaning firm At Your Service, has campaigned for more government support for the industry.
She says some cleaners are breaking the law to “feed their children”.
In her role as associate director of trade body Domestic Cleaning Business Network (DCBN), she has spoken to several people still advertising their services online.
Adverts on social media
“You can see it on adverts on social media that people are still taking on clients,” she said.
“Yesterday alone I spoke to eight cleaning companies. Their argument is ‘it’s essential to feed my children’.
“There is a reason for the government guidance but many are saying they’ve got no other income.”
The current guidance states domestic cleaning is only allowed when the customer is unable, physically or mentally, to do it themselves.
Costs mount as unable to trade
Ms Fairweather, who has a workforce of seven, said if the current lockdown lasts until March, she will have only traded for four months of a year.
She has utilised the furlough scheme – but said her running costs amounted to £720 a month.
“Cleaning is not a big-profit industry,” the Dundee cleaning boss said.
“Our office costs are £250, insurance is £150, we’ve got cars, the accountants still need paid.
“Even with furlough it’s costing us £40 a month per worker with tax and National Insurance.
“We’ve had no funding at all. Under Tier 4 we’ve had to close but there’s nothing on the other side of that.
“My daughter is getting married in 18 months and I’m literally borrowing from her wedding fund to pay the bills for the business, to keep going.
“I think there’s an impression that if you run a small business you’ve had grants and loans. It’s not the case. There are lots of us that it misses.”
Hope if council approves grant
Ms Fairweather said some of the cleaners she had spoken to highlighted the long wait to go on Universal Credit as another reason to keep working.
The DCBN has campaigned heavily on the issue.
Dundee City Council has included a reference to cleaners in a funding package that could be approved on Monday.
Businesses who supply goods or services that have been closed or restricted could receive £2,000 grants under the scheme.
The local scheme has been funded by the Scottish Government.
Cracks in support schemes
A government spokesperson said: “In most cases domestic cleaners should not be working.
“We understand how challenging this is for low-paid cleaners, particularly those who have fallen through the cracks between the UK Government’s furlough and self-employment income support schemes.
“People in this difficult situation may be eligible for Universal Credit and we are actively taking steps to fill in the gaps in UK-wide schemes.
“Local authorities also have individual discretionary funds to support local business needs.”
The DCBN said it would lobby other local authorities to include cleaners in the discretionary grant.
Typhoid Mary concern
The trade association warned Scotland could be facing another ‘Typhoid Mary’ disaster.
Mary Mallon, also known as Typhoid Mary, was an Irish-born cook.
Cooking in the homes of wealthy families in and around New York City between 1900 and 1907, Mary is believed to have infected 53 people with typhoid fever, three of whom died.
Left high and dry
Krissi Foskett, director of DCBN, said: “Furlough support is available for cleaning companies with staff.
“But thousands of domestic cleaners working alone have been left high and dry, individuals who have no other source of income to support themselves and put food on the table.
“As their advisory body, their voice, we absolutely understand the rules and guidelines on domestic cleaning and are repeatedly telling our members that they must stop working for now, to protect the public and themselves.
“However, with no financial help coupled with a fear that they might lose their clients if they stop, many feel they have no option but to continue going into people’s homes,” she added.