01 Jan Why Using A Legitimate Cleaning Company Could Help Protect Workers From A Disaster
I’ve been humbled over the past 13 years by the dedication, love, and commitment of the people who have worked for us. The past couple of weeks has been some of my darkest days. I find myself increasingly pushed out of my comfort zone as a business owner navigating through the process of loan applications and keeping our business afloat and as a human being caring for our staff during a crisis the world has never seen. Days have been spent calling creditors, researching disaster relief loans, SBA grants, unemployment benefits, and applications…sifting through all the red tape in an attempt to provide some financial relief for our workers and their families much as they have done for us day in and day out for years.
It’s a scary time for all of us. Like many small business owners, I am in tears throughout the day. My stomach knots up when we go over the next day’s schedule, and the once 25 plus jobs divided among our 15 employees have dwindled to 5-4-2 jobs, I have to decide who will work and who will stay at home. Who will make money, and who will make none? This is haunting as I know many of them work paycheck to paycheck and have little kids who need to be fed. While many of our clients have been more than generous with tips and the offering of paying for cleanings they aren’t receiving, it’s getting to the point where we will eventually have to choose if shutting the doors would be better than letting our staff continue to work responsibly.
The unknown of when the unemployment checks will start to be sent out and when the CARES ACT will begin has swayed our decision to keep us all responsibly working as we feel like until help comes from the federal and state government, something is better than nothing. Before the comments, let me preface that “responsibly working” means our employees’ health and well-being come first and is our top priority. We are adhering to the FDA guidelines about keeping our staff protected with gear and approved natural cleaning products to kill COVID-19 while at the same time making sure they still are making just enough money to put food on the table.
While I stay pretty sad about the state of affairs and well-being of our staff and ourselves, I find the comfort we can give our staff a glimpse of financial hope. As a licensed, bonded, and insured cleaning business, we can provide our staff in ways others are not. There has always been this tug of war watching other companies pay their staff under the table, offering to pay 1099, knowing it was illegal and wrong. Watching housekeepers be taken advantage of while lured by the dollar signs – $100 a day, $150 a day, or $200 per house, knowing in the back of my head there is no way this is legit. Seeing moms on Facebook pages give out phone numbers of their housekeepers who work “independently,” all while wondering if they know the liabilities they are taking with lack of workers comp insurance, bonds should something go missing, tax avoidance, contributing to the workforce, etc. Constantly losing excellent housekeepers to the promise of big money while knowing they would be in trouble come tax time or if they were injured on the job. Today though, I feel extremely proud of our company that we haven’t compromised, we haven’t given in while losing out on money, we have stayed true to our word of protecting our staff, and now more than ever, it is evident why at the end of this nightmare legitimate cleaning companies are going to be praised for protecting their staff during horrific times the likes we hope we will never again see.
For those who don’t know much about the cleaning industry, the pros and cons of classifying staff as workers or independent contractors have always been a great debate. But no matter how you justify it, you can’t operate a cleaning business with teams but identify them as independent contractors. Employers must comply with payroll tax requirements, including payment of unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. And for those small cleaning businesses during this crisis, I think this will be somewhat of a golden ticket for their workers and themselves.
The IRS considers all workers to be employees unless you can prove otherwise. Trying to bend the rules associated with either of these legal structures could land you in big trouble and hurt employees in the long run, especially now as millions of Americans file for unemployment benefits. Under current guidelines, legit companies have an easier time assisting workers than those deem their workers in 1099. While the unprecedented Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program may eventually help gig and 1099 workers, it is not a sure thing and doesn’t help with immediate financial support.
Eligibility for PUA includes those not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits under state or federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation, including those who have exhausted all rights to such benefits. Covered individuals include self-employed individuals, those seeking part-time employment, and individuals lacking sufficient work history. If you are one of these people, have applied for unemployment insurance benefits, and were not found eligible, you may be eligible for weekly benefits provided under the CARES Act, but there are stipulations to receive benefits.
The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce says it paid approximately $10 million in regular unemployment benefits between March 29 and Thursday. SCDEW is encouraging people to file in anticipation of the additional $600 weekly payment to be made under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but it’s unclear whether 1099, self-employed, gig workers, etc. will benefit from the financial relief and as to when the financial help will come if at all.
Long story short, if you are a housekeeper employed by a tax-paying business, you are in much better shape during this crisis than someone who has been cleaning “under the table,” “off the books,” or as an independent 1099 worker. If you are considering hiring a housekeeper when this is all over, this is another example of why it’s better to go with a business than an independent worker.