Hotels must not wait for the dust to settle before getting hands dirty after experts warn of housekeeping crisis

Years of poor training and poor paying have led to a housekeeping crisis in hotels, industry experts have warned.

A combination of factors, including the removal of housekeeping modules from college courses, overuse of cheap and under-skilled agency workers and a lack of investment means hotels are facing a shortage of housekeeping staff.

“The problem is that some general managers take the view that people clean at home, so they can be employed at a minimum rate to do the same thing in their hotel,” said Ian Hughes, chairman of the UK Housekeepers Association.

Speaking to Personnel Today’s sister publication Caterer and Hotelkeeper, Hughes argued that low pay was compounded by a general lack of respect for – or understanding of – housekeeping management.

“Education seems to have taken out housekeeping as a career pathway in hospitality. It has been happening for at least five years, with the increasing emphasis put on food and beverages,” he added.

Some colleges, including Huddersfield Technology College, where Hughes teaches, have reinstated housekeeping components into their courses to try to alleviate the crisis.

Liz Smith-Mills, hotel consultant and chair of the Yorkshire branch of the Hotel and Catering International Management Association, agreed that hotel managers had paid too little attention to housekeeping and were now suffering the consequences.

“Poor treatment and minimal training have resulted in low motivation and high staff turnover,” she said.

Nick Gamble, director of operations at the Malmaison hotels group, said a tendency among the larger hotels, particularly in London, to contract-out housekeeping operations had undermined the profession.

“Housekeepers should not be under-valued,” he said. “They make great managers because the job requires great motivational skills, managing what is often the largest single group of people working in a hotel.”

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