Close

A Cleaning Company Gives Marginalised Workers a Fresh Start

A Cleaning Company Gives Marginalised Workers a Fresh Start

Minute Read 0 views

Spic & Span, which provides cleaning services to clients including Temasek Shophouse, is showing how a company can transform the personal lives of its workforce through sustainable employment.

About 80 per cent of Spic & Span's workforce at Temasek Shophouse are people who face challenges in getting a job. Photo: Temasek.

Booted out from his home in his 20s, Mr Yap had to stand on his own two feet. But with no formal education or the resolve to find work, the young adult was left destitute and homeless.

He sought refuge at a shelter run by the Catholic Welfare Services for the past decade. But even as job opportunities came by – from working part time in a gym or as a mover, he did not remain in any job for more than a few days.

“He may have been facing psychosis – it is a type of mental health condition that makes him feel inferior to others," shared Mr Benjamin Chua, founder of Spic & Span, an inclusive company which recruits people such as ex-convicts and the mentally challenged.

Mr Yap's transformative journey began when social workers at his home introduced him to Mr Chua, who gradually eased him into working life two years ago.

“We started by getting him to work one day a week. We then slowly worked with the social workers and put him on a two-day shift per week,” he said.

“It took us nine months before he (Mr Yap) finally said, ‘I think I would want to work for you guys’.”

This year, Mr Yap took another big step forward when he was promoted to team leader, managing a small team of cleaners at Temasek Shophouse.

“It was a very long courting and dating process. He started showing signs of responsibility. From his former dishevelled look, he bought new shoes, he bought new clothes, and he cut his hair,” recalled Mr Chua.

Everyone deserves a second chance -- this is the motto of inclusive cleaning company Spic & Span, founded by Mr Benjamin Chua (in black shirt). Photo: Temasek.

The Shophouse of Opportunity

Temasek Shophouse engages Spic & Span because it supports the cleaning company’s ethos – helping marginalised workers gain a stronger footing in life through sustainable employment in a supportive environment.

“We shared with Temasek Trust, who operates and manages Temasek Shophouse, what we really believe in, how we improve people’s lives with technology and through partnership with social service agencies, and they engaged us,” he said.

About 80 per cent of Spic & Span’s workforce at Temasek Shophouse are people who face challenges getting a job.

Currently, there is a stroke survivor who comes by daily, even though he has difficulties moving one side of his body. There are also a number of workers from the marginalised sector, given a second chance to integrate back into jobs with stable income.

Our business model will always be about how do we improve our workers' lives and give them better quality of life.

Mr Benjamin Chua, Founder of Spic & Span

“I really hope to have more clients like Temasek Trust, who are willing to accept the latent workforce,” he said, in reference to the participation of marginalised groups in Singapore's workforce.

“They are very embracing, and these are things that we really appreciate.”

Mr Chua started Spic & Span in 2017, when a friend asked him to think of ways to help seven older workers who were retrenched from a hotel earlier. He managed to place them in housekeeping jobs at various serviced apartments.

From a start-up, the company grew so rapidly that he left his well-paying job in a venture capital firm to focus on growing this social enterprise.

Today, he works with over 60 volunteer welfare organisations to provide stable employment in building management and commercial cleaning services sectors.

Mr Yap (right) , who was booted out from his home in his 20s, took a big step forward when he was promoted to team leader, managing a small team of cleaners at Temasek Shophouse. Photo: Temasek.

Giving Staff the Right Tools to Grow

Mr Chua goes to great lengths to adjust work processes to suit his staffs’ needs. For the mobility challenged for instance, he has invested in cleaning tools that are extendable and light so that it can be easily wielded with one hand.  

But beyond the basic tools of the trade, he has also invested in higher-level automation tools such as robot window cleaners today, and possibly drones in the future.

Aside from investing in the future of work, he has committed to take good care of the workers’ welfare.

“We have a collective agreement that is endorsed by the Industrial Arbitration Court. As a unionised company, we focus on our workers first,” he shared.

Now, he aims to develop Spic & Span from a cleaning services company into a leading clean technology company.

We have a collective agreement that is endorsed by the Industrial Arbitration Court. As a unionised company, we focus on our workers first.

Mr Benjamin Chua, Founder of Spic & Span

Its in-house research and development division has already made great progress. It produced a new form of antimicrobial agent that can be easily applied over a wide surface area and last for months.

Unlike traditional cleaning products which kill bacteria on application, this invention will continue to kill germs for months and will not require frequent re-applications.

But at the heart of the company are its people. He is pleased when their efforts are recognised by clients. It was a significant morale boost for everyone.

“Our whole business model will always be about how do we improve our workers’ lives and give them a better quality of life. When our heart and intention is in the right place, I’m sure the steps and the direction we take will be in sync with our do-good business model,” he shared.

Top

We invest today, with tomorrow in mind

Subscribe to find out how we're actively shaping a better world

Please give us your consent.
Please confirm that you are not a robot.