FLEX launches comprehensive five-language survey on workers’ experiences of exploitation in UK cleaning and hospitality

News24 Jan 2020

The survey – currently available in English, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish – is part of a broader participatory research project on women and young migrant workers’ experiences of labour abuse and exploitation in low-paid sectors in the UK.

Through interviews and focus groups conducted by Peer Researchers – workers from the relevant sectors doing research with their peers – and supported by FLEX, we have uncovered numerous issues. These range from serious health and safety violations (the liquid got into the gloves, and he got burned, like acid burns), to frequent underpayment of wages (they've been paying me badly, they've only been paying me £8.20, from what it says on my payslip. That was this payslip, the other one was like £7.81) and a fear of reporting non-compliance (if we say something our job could be at risk).

In these interviews, workers are highlighting the systemic issues driving non-compliance, as seen in this quote from a Romanian room attendant:

“Obviously, the client, the hotel managers and everyone are happy, because they pay less. And the agency doesn’t care; they just send five people even though it needs to be eight. […] One employee ends up doing three jobs and staying late. But even though they are doing ten hours, they need to sign out after eight and work two hours for free, because he [the manager] needs to stay in that budget. And if he does not, then he gets kicked out.”

We believe that to effectively prevent these kinds of labour abuses and promote decent work, policymakers must listen to and learn from workers’ lived experiences. We are therefore amplifying the voices of workers and encouraging participation throughout our research, from design to data collection and analysis to advocacy.

This survey, designed with input from FLEX Peer Researchers, will help us understand how wide-ranging the problems uncovered so far are, and build up the robust evidence base needed to create labour market policies that truly work for workers, especially those most marginalised.

If you work in cleaning or hospitality, or know anyone who does, please fill in and/or share the survey. We will use the information gathered to produce high-quality research and fight for better working conditions in the UK.

The survey can be completed anonymously (no need to share your name or other personal information) and all information is stored securely.

Find more information on FLEX’s participatory research here.

Read our Peer Researchers’ stories here, here, here and here.

If you work in hospitality (e.g. catering, hotel housekeeping or as a kitchen porter) or the gig economy (e.g. as a courier or delivery driver) and would like to get involved in this project, please contact [email protected]

This work is funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation.