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First batch of companies receives cleaning business licences

The first batch of 18 companies has received their cleaning business licenses from the National Environment Agency.

SINGAPORE: The first batch of 18 companies has received their cleaning business licenses from the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The 18 companies are a mix of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and larger companies with 200 or more cleaners.

NEA is currently processing another 116 applications out of the 134 it received.

With the Environmental Public Health (Amendment) Bill having come into force on April 1, all general cleaning businesses in Singapore will have to be licensed by September 1. This is even if these services form only part of their overall business.

Cleaning businesses have less than four months to meet licensing requirements and apply for a license.

As part of the licensing requirements, cleaning businesses will have to provide training and implement the Progressive Wage Model.

One of those who have benefited is 21-year-old Siti Rosmah, a mother of two who has been working as a cleaner for the past two years.

Her salary of about S$1,200 makes it tough for her to make ends meet, and she hopes that her salary can be raised after attending these training courses.

She said: "Not many people work in a safe environment and they are not aware of the dangers. Usually when I work, we use chemicals but the majority of cleaners don't use gloves. After going for the course, I learnt that If we work and use chemicals and we don't use gloves, it could affect our skin."

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said: "Many people take cleaning and performance of cleaning for granted but in fact it's a weak point if we don't pay attention to safety and hygiene and to protecting the long-term health of our cleaners.

"If all these things can help improve productivity, it can help us achieve the longer term aim to raise the wages and improve the employment conditions of our cleaners."

Currently, 18 of the estimated 900 registered cleaning companies have received their license. Of these 18 companies, 12 have a workforce of less than 200 workers, while the remaining six have more than 200 workers.

Over 31,000 out of the estimated 69,000 cleaners here have been trained.

Currently, NEA is processing 116 out of 134 applications. Thus far, no application has been unsuccessful.

To meet the licensing deadline, the number of training places has been ramped up to about 4,500 per month from April to August.

Cleaning businesses are to have at least 50 per cent of their cleaning staff trained in at least one module within the Environmental Cleaning Workforce Skills Qualifications framework at the point of first application. Subsequently at the point of first renewal, 100 per cent of staff should be trained.

However, it remains a challenge for some companies to send their workers for training due to the manpower crunch.

Safrah Eusoof, deputy director of the healthcare, retail and business services division in the Workforce Development Agency (WDA), said: "WDA has been working with our training providers very closely for the last few months to offer alternative and training arrangements.

"This comes in various forms, for example, weekend classes, on-site training at the company's workplaces and bite-sized training to shorten the training duration."

Dr Balakrishnan added that measures have also been put in place to help companies who face cost issues. He said: "90-95 per cent of the fees is subsidised by the government.

"The balance, we expect the employers to chip in. In any case the employers have access to PIC and other grants because all this helps to improve productivity. So the financial aspects won't be a hurdle."

Cleaning businesses have another four months to meet licensing requirements and apply for a license. However, they are advised to submit their applications to the NEA by July 15 so that their applications can be processed early and will not cause any disruptions to their operations come September 1.

Applications will generally be processed within 30 working days upon the submission of documents.

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