Our new contract cleaning frequently asked questions (FAQs) resource answers some of the most common questions we get from employees, employers and independent contractors. It also has examples to help you apply the information.
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A contract cleaning business provides cleaning services under a contract. We have information and guidance for employees, employers, and independent contractors in the contract cleaning industry.
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The contract cleaning industry refers to, among other things, businesses that provide cleaning services to another business or a consumer on a contractual basis.
Workers in the contract cleaning industry may be working for:
- the business that holds the cleaning contract
- another business that has been subcontracted by the business that holds the contract (known as a subcontractor)
- a third-party labour hire service provider
- a private household
- a contract trolley collection business.
Not all workers who perform cleaning duties work for businesses in the contract cleaning industry.
Workers in the contract cleaning industry will have different rights and obligations, depending on whether they are hired as independent contractors or employees.
Independent contractors provide agreed services under a contract for those services. They usually negotiate their own fees and working arrangements and can work for more than one client at a time.
Independent contractors are not covered by awards.
For more information on workplace entitlements for independent contractors, see Independent contractors.
An employee is a person that’s employed to work for a company on either a full-time, part-time or casual basis in exchange for payment.
Employees’ minimum entitlements are found in:
- the National Employment Standards (NES)
- awards, such as the Cleaning Services Award (Cleaning Award).
The NES are 11 minimum employment entitlements that have to be provided to all employees. For more information, see National Employment Standards.
An award is a legal document that sets out minimum pay rates and conditions of employment. Awards apply to employers and employees depending on the industry they work in and the type of job worked. Every award has information about who it covers.
A registered agreement or employment contract can provide for other entitlements, but they can’t be less than what’s in the NES or, broadly, the award that applies.
Independent contractor or employee
Whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee depends on a number of indicators. These include:
- the amount of control over how work is performed
- financial responsibility and risk
- who supplies the tools and equipment
- ability to delegate or subcontract work
- hours of work
- expectation of work continuing.
Sometimes a business (or individual) may tell or represent to a worker that they are an independent contractor when in fact they are an employee of the business. If the business knew (or should have known) that the worker was an employee, there may be a sham contracting arrangement. These kinds of arrangements are illegal.
Example: Understanding where minimum entitlements come from
Morgan wants to start a new home cleaning business. Before she starts hiring employees, she needs to find out about minimum pay rates and entitlements.
Morgan visits fairwork.gov.au and learns that minimum pay rates and conditions of employment come from both the National Employment Standards and a document called an award. The award that she needs to use depends on the industry of her business, and the type of work her employees do.
She uses the Find my award tool and finds out that the Cleaning Services Award 2020 (Cleaning Award) applies to her employees. This is because her business provides cleaning services under a contract, and the type of work the employees will do is covered by the definition in the Cleaning Award of a Cleaning Services Employee Level 1.
The Cleaning Award has rules about rights and obligations, including:
- minimum pay rates
- whether an employee is casual, part-time or full-time
- penalty rates (for example, for working weekends or after hours)
- allowances (for example, for toilet cleaning or an employee using their own vehicle)
Morgan reads through the Cleaning Award carefully, to make sure she understands the pay rates, entitlements, and other conditions she must provide to her employees.
If you’re an employee or employer in the contract cleaning industry, you’re most likely covered by the Cleaning Award.
For more information on pay rates and entitlements under the Cleaning Award, see Entitlements for employees under the Cleaning Award.
In some cases, a business may have an employee that works directly for them and performs cleaning duties and is not covered by the Cleaning Award. This may be because the business is not a contract cleaning business.
Example: Cleaning employee not part of contract cleaning industry
Joe and Sam are friends who both work as cleaners at two different supermarkets in a coastal town. They both do similar duties at work, including cleaning common areas, polishing and garbage disposal.
Joe works directly for Supermarket A as part of their staff and must wear their uniform. Joe receives instructions from the store manager. Because Joe works directly for Supermarket A, Joe will be covered by the General Retail Industry Award.
Sam works for a contract cleaning business that provides cleaning services to Supermarket B, as well as other businesses. Sam is paid directly by the cleaning company and wears their uniform. Sam is told by the cleaning business when to work and what tasks should be done in what order. Sam is covered by the Cleaning Award.
In the above example about Joe and Sam, Joe is directly employed by the supermarket. The supermarket is not part of the contract cleaning industry. Joe is covered by the General Retail Industry Award, because that award covers supermarkets and the kind of work Joe does.
On the other hand, Sam is employed by a business that provides cleaning services to other businesses under contract. This kind of business and the kind of work Sam does are covered by the Cleaning Award.
For more information on who is and isn’t covered by the Cleaning Award, visit the Cleaning Award summary.
If you’re not sure which award applies, try our Find my award tool.
To find out how to resolve issues in the workplace and get our help if you need it, see Resolving issues in contract cleaning.
The contract cleaning industry is one of our priority areas for the 2022-23 financial year. We seek to ensure all employees, including those at all stages of supply chains, are paid what the law requires.
We also conduct work in the wider cleaning industry focused on non-compliance with the Fair Work Act. This includes matters such as:
- underpayments of wages and entitlements
- sham contracting.
You can read more on the Compliance and enforcement page.
Stay up to date with our activity in the cleaning industry by visiting our Newsroom and searching for articles relating to cleaning.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $139,860 penalties in court against a contract cleaning company in regional Western Australia after it underpaid employees more than $114,000 and falsified records.
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