NEA will continue to work closely with the industry and union to build a resilient and professional environmental services sector, and help companies and the workforce transit to upcoming changes
Singapore, 9 January 2023 – The National Environment Agency (NEA) will be enhancing the general cleaning business licensing framework, as part of overall efforts to drive capabilities and raise public health standards of cleaning businesses. Revisions to the cleaning business licensing framework will enable the cleaning sector to transform on several fronts: grow competencies, instill proactive productivity culture, develop a skilled and resilient workforce, and create better employment opportunities.
Proposed Revised Cleaning Business Licensing Framework from 1 January 2024
2 NEA introduced the general cleaning business licensing on 1 September 2014 to level the industry playing field, by imposing baseline requirements for cleaning businesses and for payment of Progressive Wage Model (PWM) wages to resident cleaners. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of cleaning, and accelerated the need for businesses to transform themselves through greater technology adoption and digitalisation. With rising expectations and demands for quality cleaning services, cleaning businesses need to be well-equipped to meet these demands, amidst ongoing manpower challenges.
3 NEA has conducted several industry consultations with cleaning businesses and service buyers over the past few years, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Cleaning businesses welcomed the changes, and acknowledged the need to raise overall baseline standards.
4 Prior to upcoming revisions to the cleaning business licensing framework, NEA, together with key stakeholders and partner agencies, took steps to ensure a smooth transition for businesses and the workforce.
· Training requirements have been enhanced from 31 December 2022, to align with the Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners’ (TCC) recommendations in 2021 . All cleaners have to be trained in two modules: one WSQ Workplace Safety and Health module, and one WSQ core module from the list of training modules endorsed by TCC.
· Payment of PWM wages for resident cleaners are already part of existing requirements. The Government also accepted TCC’s recommendations for a six-year schedule of sustained wage increases from July 2023. (Refer to go.gov.sg/cleaningpwm2021 for more information on the schedule of wage increases for cleaning sector.)
Key Changes to Cleaning Business Licensing
5 The revised cleaning business licensing framework is proposed to take effect on 1 January 2024, after taking into consideration the industry’s request for more time to meet the new requirements. The current cleaning business licensing and the voluntary Enhanced Clean Mark Accreditation Scheme (EAS) will be merged into a single framework.
6 Under the revised cleaning business licensing framework, there will be three classes of licence with a 2-year validity. Service buyers will be able to make better informed decisions based on licence classification and training of the workforce when procuring scope of cleaning services needed. bizSAFE Certification will also be introduced as part of the new requirements to support the national thrust in workplace safety. (Refer to Annex for more information on revised licensing requirements.)
- Class 3 Licence is a non-renewable tier . It is available to new businesses and existing cleaning business licensees as of 31 December 2023 (once only upon licence expiry), including licensees that cannot immediately meet Class 1 or Class 2 licence requirements).
- Class 2 Licence (Basic tier in steady state). It requires cleaning business licensees to meet paid-up capital and bizSAFE certification requirements.
- Class 1 Licence (Enhanced tier). It requires the cleaning workforce to be trained in at least 3 WSQ training modules. and licensees need to have higher paid-up capital to differentiate businesses with better capabilities. Class 1 licensees can signal their commitment to invest in training of the workforce to attain more cleaning competencies, and to provide more assurance to service buyers that they are equipped with further resources to undertake larger cleaning projects.
7 As of 30 November 2022, there are about 1,550 licensed cleaning businesses and 55,000 cleaners, of which 41,200 are resident cleaners. With the upcoming increases in PWM wages proposed from 1 July 2023, businesses need to grow their capabilities to sustain paying their workers PWM wages over the long-term. To do so, a paid-up capital requirement will be introduced to support better wages and greater technology adoption: $25,000 for Class 2 Licence and $250,000 for Class 1 Licence.
8 To complement upcoming changes to the cleaning business licensing regime, NEA will also continue to reach out to businesses to share relevant initiatives and programmes under the Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map that they can tap on, to build their capabilities and grow their workers’ competencies.
9 “We welcome the changes to the cleaning business licensing framework, and believe that these changes are necessary to uplift overall cleaning sector standards and for building a resilient and competent workforce. As more service buyers adopt outcome-based contracting, we can optimise manpower deployment using technological solutions to improve service delivery. A concerted effort by service buyers and service providers (cleaning businesses) will go a long way to raise cleaning sector standards,” said Mr Tony Chooi, President of the Environmental Management Association of Singapore.
10 “Our cleaning workforce continues to play an instrumental role in keeping Singapore clean and safe, even now in a post-COVID-19-pandemic era. The environmental services industry is leveraging greater use of technology to improve productivity. Hence it is important for our cleaners to attend training, to acquire new skills to facilitate this increase in technology use. A key success factor would be for service buyers to allow their service providers to send their workers for training during working hours, as long as cleaning service standards are not compromised. With more concerted efforts by all stakeholders, our cleaning workforce can look forward to better wages, welfare and work prospects in the near term”, said Mr Zainal Sapari, NTUC Assistant Director-General.
11 The Environmental Public Health (EPH) Amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament on 9 January 2023 to enable these changes.
 With a Class 3 Licence, cleaning businesses will have an additional 2 years, i.e. until 2026, to eventually transit to a Class 2 or 1 Licence.
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Requirements under the Revised Cleaning Business Licence Framework
* For Class 3 Licence, renewal is only applicable to licensed cleaning businesses as of 31 December 2023. Currently licensed cleaning businesses will be able to renew their licences one time to the Class 3 Licence when their licences expire.
# Requirement enhanced from current 2 training modules
(Note: ACRA refers to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, ROS refers to the Registry of Societies, WSH refers to Workplace Safety and Health, WSQ refers to the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications.)