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What does a housekeeper do?
A housekeeper is responsible for the cleanliness and tidiness of various establishments, such as commercial premises, public buildings and private residential homes.
Housekeepers can specialise in various sectors and industries, such as hospitality, healthcare and health & fitness. They can also specialise in different environments, such as hotels, fitness centres, hospitals, care homes, spas and private homes. Therefore, what housekeepers do will depend on where they work, their tasks and their specialisms.
A housekeeper’s main aim is to ensure all areas within an establishment are kept clean and tidy to a high standard at all times and in line with company procedures. Their duties will depend on the size and nature of their workplace. For example, a hotel housekeeper will organise and supervise hotel staff and inspect rooms, and a hospital housekeeper will be responsible for maintaining infection control.
In general, housekeepers will carry out many tasks in an indoor environment, including recruitment, training, supervision, organising cleaning staff, completing shift rotas, assigning cleaning tasks, inspecting rooms, ensuring a high standard of cleanliness, reporting damage and hazards, arranging repairs, ordering supplies, dealing with customer complaints and enquiries, etc. The role may also encompass administrative tasks/computer work, such as completing checklists, keeping records and writing reports.
Housekeepers will work with many people, including general managers, senior/head housekeepers, cleaning or housekeeping staff, departmental heads, caterers, maintenance workers and other staff. They can also liaise with various external stakeholders (depending on where they work), such as the general public, residents, suppliers, delivery drivers, contractors, tradespeople, etc. Housekeepers will deal with patients, medical staff, healthcare assistants and others in hospitals.
Housekeepers can work for various-sized companies, from large hotel chains and NHS/private hospitals to small pubs and private residential homeowners. Most will work in permanent, full-time jobs, but there are part-time opportunities. There are also self-employed, temporary and contract jobs available.
A housekeeper’s responsibilities will depend on many factors, including the size and nature of the building in which they work, their employer, their role and their specialisms.
Some examples of their day-to-day duties may include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Understanding and following the company’s health, safety and hygiene policies and procedures.
- Recruiting, training, organising and supervising cleaning staff and other employees.
- Completing shift rotas and assigning cleaning tasks.
- Inspecting rooms and other areas to ensure the standard of cleanliness and tidiness is high.
- Ordering supplies, equipment and materials.
- Reporting damage, faults, defects, hazards and missing items and arranging repairs or replacements.
- Dealing with customer complaints and enquiries.
- Liaising with general managers and other departments.
In smaller workplaces, housekeepers may also carry out cleaning duties with other housekeeping staff. It can involve dusting, vacuuming, mopping, disinfecting, changing bed sheets, laundry tasks, waste removal, minor maintenance, etc. They may also cook, shop, drive and run other errands in domestic settings.
A housekeeper can expect to work 38-40 hours a week, but they can do more or fewer hours depending on the type of establishment in which they work, their role and their employer.
Being a housekeeper is not a 9-5 job. They usually work unsociable hours on shifts, e.g. evenings, weekends and bank holidays, and there may be some early mornings and nights. Some housekeepers may be able to work Monday-Friday daytime shifts, but this will depend on their job.
Most housekeeper roles are full-time and permanent, but there may be flexible jobs, such as part-time or job share. There may also be temporary or contract and self-employed jobs for those with more experience.
Travel may be a requirement for housekeepers, e.g. if they work in different premises locally or regionally and supervise staff across sites. Overseas opportunities are uncommon but may be available for some individuals, e.g. if they work for international companies, such as hotels, or on cruise ships.
Some jobs may require housekeepers to live on-site, which can be beneficial if individuals are looking for somewhere to stay.
What to expect
There are many positives to being a housekeeper, especially if an individual enjoys cleaning to an exceptionally high standard and working with various people.
As they say, “cleanliness is next to godliness”, and housekeepers and their teams have an essential role in keeping various premises clean and tidy. Cleaning removes dirt, germs, impurities and other hazards. Research also shows that cleaning has positive effects on people’s mental health. Knowing you are contributing to happy, safe and healthy premises and people is fulfilling.
High standards of cleaning and tidiness are essential in healthcare environments, such as hospitals and care homes. Improper cleaning and a lack of infection control can make people ill and, in some cases, be life-threatening for those with poor immune systems. Therefore, housekeepers can prevent ill health and even save lives.
Every establishment, be it commercial, public or domestic, needs cleaning and tidying. Therefore, there is no shortage of housekeeping jobs across many sectors and various establishments. Roles are available locally and nationally in rural, semi-urban and urban areas. There is decent job security with this career.
Housekeepers do not require formal qualifications. Therefore, it can be a great career choice for less academic individuals and those uncomfortable with taking exams. However, they will still need the right skills and undertake appropriate training, e.g. handling hazardous substances.
Some housekeeping jobs include benefits such as uniforms, generous holidays, pension and life assurance schemes, accommodation discounts, food and drinks, private healthcare, etc. Individuals may also get free board, utilities and food with live-in roles.
Boredom is unlikely to be a problem for housekeepers, and no two days will be the same. One day, they could deliver training to staff, and the next, inspect rooms and areas for high standards of cleanliness. They will have different responsibilities and interact with various people throughout their working day.
Even though there are positives to being a housekeeper, there are challenges and cons, e.g.:
- Mental demands – being a housekeeper can be mentally demanding. The role is fast-paced and high-pressured, which can be stressful. In some jobs, such as in hotels and guesthouses, housekeepers must ensure they clean rooms and change bed linen for the next guests’ arrival. Also, some cleaning staff, guests and customers can be challenging.
- Health and safety hazards – housekeepers face various hazards during their working day, especially when cleaning and dealing with waste, e.g. biological fluids, manual handling, hazardous substances, slips, trips and falls, lone working, work-related stress, work at height, etc. The HSE has further information on health and safety in cleaning here.
- Physical demands – the role can also be physically demanding, as housekeepers will be on their feet for most of the working day. They may also be required to manually handle equipment, materials and supplies, which can often be heavy. On the flip side, being active at work can be great for an individual’s physical fitness.
- Responsibility – some housekeepers have a lot of responsibility, especially regarding infection control in healthcare facilities. They also tend to look after a cleaning team and will be responsible for ensuring a high standard of cleanliness within the premises.
- Dirt and unpleasant sights and smells – anyone in a cleaning role will come across some pretty awful things from time to time. Some people can leave rooms and facilities dirty, and some can be downright unhygienic. Individuals may need a strong stomach and not be bothered by dirt and mess in this role.
Every career choice has pros and cons, and individuals must know what to expect before deciding whether it is for them. Housekeeping can be physically and mentally demanding, high-pressured, challenging, stressful and dirty. However, there are many positives too, and those who become housekeepers provide a much-needed service and can be proud of improving the quality of life for people on the premises.
When considering whether to be a housekeeper and the type of role, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the right personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.
Personal qualities needed to be a housekeeper
Some of the personal qualities a housekeeper requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Knowledge of cleaning, equipment, methods and techniques.
- Knowledge of health and safety, COSHH and infection control.
- A good level of physical fitness.
- A good work ethic.
- Motivational, approachable and friendly.
- Calm, confident and assertive.
- Positive and professional.
- Discrete and honest.
- Customer service skills.
- Practical skills.
- Interpersonal skills.
- People management skills.
- Communication skills, both written and verbal.
- Time management and organisational skills.
- Business management skills.
- Being thorough, accurate and having excellent attention to detail.
- The ability to manage and motivate staff.
- The ability to be flexible and open to change.
- The ability to maintain confidentiality, e.g. guests and homeowners.
- The ability to work well with others in a team and alone using their own initiative.
- The ability to work well under pressure and remain calm in stressful situations.
- The ability to use a computer and relevant software packages proficiently.
Qualifications and training
There are many different routes to becoming a housekeeper. Individuals could go to college, enrol on a course with a private training provider, apply for an apprenticeship or apply directly. They could also do work experience to help them enter the role.
Individuals do not typically require formal qualifications or educational requirements to become a housekeeper as long as they have relevant experience. However, a college course can help individuals work towards the position and stand out from other applicants.
Some example courses that may be useful are as follows (this list is not exhaustive):
- Level 2 Award, Certificate or Diploma in Cleaning and Support Services Skills.
- Level 2 Diploma in Housekeeping Services.
- Level 2 Certificate in Hospitality and Catering Principles (Housekeeping).
- Level 2 Certificate in Hospitality Industry Skills (Housekeeping).
- Level 2 or 3 NVQ Diploma in Housekeeping.
- Level 3 Award in Hospitality Supervision and Leadership Principles.
- Level 3 Award, Certificate or Diploma in Cleaning Supervision Skills.
Individuals usually need:
- Level 2 – two or more GCSEs grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) or equivalent.
- Level 3 – four/five GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent.
Private training companies may offer courses. It may also be worth enrolling on low-cost online short housekeeping courses to see if a career as a housekeeper would be of interest. That way, if not, it will save an individual a lot of time and trouble.
Courses and qualifications do not guarantee a role in housekeeping. However, it will demonstrate to employers that an individual is keen on the job and may give them a competitive edge. Always check the entry requirements before applying.
There is an apprenticeship route to help individuals become housekeepers, e.g.:
- Hospitality team member housekeeping intermediate apprenticeship – individuals usually need some GCSEs, including English and maths, or equivalent.
- Hospitality supervisor advanced apprenticeship – individuals usually need five GCSEs, grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English and maths, or equivalent.
Opportunities are on Government’s Apprenticeships, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and Indeed.
Employers may also offer apprenticeships directly, usually advertised on their web pages.
If individuals have relevant experience, i.e. in customer service, hospitality or supervising, they could apply directly for housekeeping jobs. Vacancies are on many job sites.
Relevant work experience, either paid or voluntary, can help individuals stand out and build their knowledge and skills.
To gain experience, individuals could (this list is not exhaustive):
- Apply for a junior/assistant housekeeper, room attendant or cleaner role and work up to housekeeper by taking relevant qualifications while training.
- Work in a customer-facing role in hospitality or customer service.
- Work or volunteer in a sector where they want to become a housekeeper, e.g. healthcare, hospitality or private.
- Do work experience at a hotel or other relevant premises and shadow experienced housekeepers.
- Volunteer for a charity in a position that builds customer service, communication and supervisory skills.
Training and experience may be necessary for some jobs and volunteer opportunities.
Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help individuals enter the profession, enhance their employability and give them a competitive edge. Many colleges and accredited private training companies can provide relevant training courses.
We have many examples of approved courses that may be useful for individuals looking at a career as a housekeeper, including (this list is not exhaustive):
- Health and safety for managers.
- Care certificate (e.g. if working in care homes).
- Manual handling.
- Hazardous substances.
- Slips, trips and falls.
- Assessing risk.
- Fire safety awareness.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Workplace stress.
- Lone working.
- COVID-19 awareness.
- Workplace first aid.
- Equality and diversity.
- Infection control.
- Understanding the GDPR.
- Customer service skills.
- Conflict management.
- Complaints handling.
- Team leading Level 2.
- Time management skills.
- Resilience training.
Professional bodies and associations, such as the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc), the Institute of Hospitality, the UK Housekeepers Association (UKHA), the British Cleaning Council, and other organisations, can also advise on reputable training courses. Some also provide memberships, events and support to help individuals become housekeepers and give those already in the profession the means to continue their professional development.
The type of training required will depend on who an individual works for and their specialisms. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training needed, especially for specialist roles. Jobs are on websites such as GOV.UK Find a Job Service, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Gumtree, Eden Private Staff, Caterer.com, Jobs in hotels, s1jobs, British Hospitality Jobs, leisurejobs.com and many other sites. Also, look at recruitment agencies for temporary and contract roles and individual company websites.
More relevant training and competence (skills, experience and knowledge) will open up more opportunities for individuals. Refresher training is also advisable as it keeps their knowledge and skills up to date.
Some housekeepers will drive as part of their role, e.g. if they work regionally or nationally or for private households. Therefore, they may need a full driving licence.
Where do housekeepers work?
Housekeepers can work for various employers, including private businesses and individuals, public bodies, charities, etc.
They can work in premises located in rural/coastal areas, villages, towns and cities, for example (this list is not exhaustive):
- Hotels and guesthouses.
- Holiday parks, villages and lodges.
- Residential settings, e.g. private homes.
- Public buildings, e.g. council premises, libraries and museums.
- Heritage sites.
- Country estates.
- Pubs and inns.
- Residential, country and golf clubs.
- Hospitals, care homes and hospices.
- Commercial premises, e.g. offices.
- Gyms, spas and leisure facilities.
- Cruise ships.
There are also opportunities to work in temporary or contract roles and be self-employed.
Housekeepers can work in various areas of premises, depending on the size and nature of the premises. They may work in offices and visit other rooms during their working day.
How much do housekeepers earn?
A housekeeper’s salary will depend on the size/nature of the premises in which they work and their role, qualifications, experience, geographical location, employer, working hours, contract and specialist area.
If a housekeeper works for the NHS, their salary is subject to a band pay system (agenda for change pay system).
For example (these are a guide only and are subject to change):
- Starting salary or housekeeping assistant (band 2) – £22,383 a year.
- Senior positions, e.g. head housekeeper or manager (band 3) – £22,816– £24,336 a year.
If a housekeeper works in other sectors, their salary will vary.
Some examples of average annual earnings include the following (these figures are only a guide):
- £14,500 starter to £25,000 experienced (National Careers Service).
- £20,536 (TotalJobs).
- £21,965 (Glassdoor).
- £24,000 (Talent.com).
- £24,680 (Indeed UK).
Salaries are usually higher for those working with large hotel chains and groups and in London, especially when individuals have more experience.
As mentioned, housekeepers may also receive benefits in addition to their salaries.
As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this. However, it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.
Types of housekeeping to specialise in
There are many areas of housekeeping in which individuals can specialise, for example (this list is not exhaustive):
- Care home housekeeping – working in nursing or residential care homes. Housekeepers must ensure they and their staff follow infection control measures in these working environments. They may also be responsible for kitchen and laundry areas and will interact regularly with service users within the home. Some users may have age-related issues, cognitive impairments, disabilities and other difficulties.
- Hospital housekeeping – working in NHS/private hospitals. Housekeepers can work in different departments and wards and must follow strict hygiene and infection control procedures. There is further information on working as a housekeeper in a hospital on NHS Health Careers.
- Hotel housekeeping – working in various-sized hotels. They must ensure that hotel rooms are prepared and cleaned to a high standard before guests check in. They may look after common areas of the hotel, organise toiletries and consumables and other guest facilities. They can also interact with guests and will need excellent customer service skills.
- Private (domestic) housekeeping – working in people’s homes. In addition to general cleaning duties, they may be responsible for laundry, shopping, cooking, driving, childcare, pet care and minor maintenance. Some of these jobs can include live-in opportunities where the housekeeper lives on-site.
- Pub housekeeping – working in a pub/inn. Housekeepers will ensure that bars, restaurants and outdoor areas are kept clean and tidy. They may also look after guest rooms and clean up after events.
- Spa housekeeping – working in a spa or on larger premises with spa facilities, such as hotels. They will ensure that public and changing areas are clean, tidy and fully stocked.
If housekeepers work on large premises, they may supervise a cleaning or housekeeping team and conduct management tasks, such as scheduling rotas, training and ordering supplies.
All specialist housekeeping roles require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. All housekeepers must have a passion for cleanliness, excellent customer service and will require supervisory skills. Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what a company is looking for and a housekeeper’s intended specialist areas. Further training may be necessary for specialised roles.
Housekeepers not carrying out their roles correctly and not ensuring the premises are cleaned to a high standard can result in unhappy guests, customer complaints, a poor reputation and loss of business. In worse cases, staff, guests or visitors could fall ill, be injured, or worse, by poor practices.
If a housekeeper’s supervision is poor, it can lead to low staff morale, reduced productivity and high staff turnover. Therefore, whatever the type of role, housekeepers must have the necessary competence to carry out the work professionally and correctly. They should also know the limits of their competency, i.e. asking for help when something is beyond their expertise.
Cleaning techniques, materials, equipment, accommodation, technologies and guests are regularly changing. Therefore, housekeepers must keep ahead of the latest developments and changes to carry out their roles effectively and correctly. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives housekeepers the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes, understand their responsibilities, and progress in their careers.
Joining a professional body or association (as previously mentioned) can help prospective and current housekeepers enhance their skills and overall career. These may offer different levels of membership, CPD, support and access to industry contacts and networking events.
There is an opportunity for career progression for housekeepers. With more training and experience, they could move to a team leader, senior/head housekeeper or accommodation manager role. They could go from working in a small establishment to a larger one, such as a hotel, or look after several premises regionally.
Clinical psychologists can also decide to focus on specific mental health and behaviour problems, such as psychosis or addiction. Alternatively, they may become self-employed, set up their own practice or work as a freelance consultant.
Housekeepers could specialise in a specific area, such as a hotel, hospital or private residence. They could also decide to become self-employed or work on contracts with recruitment agencies.
Knowledge, skills and experience gained from working as a housekeeper can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, they could use their transferable skills and work in front-of-house, food & beverage, facilities management or training. Finally, they could undertake further qualifications and apply for supervisory roles in other sectors.
Get started on a course suitable for becoming a housekeeper
Slips, Trips and Falls£20 + VAT View course
Assessing Risk (Risk Assessment Course)£20 + VAT View course
Customer Service Skills£20 + VAT View course
Health and Safety for Managers£49 + VAT View course
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)£20 + VAT View course
Fire Safety Awareness£20 + VAT View course
Lone Working£20 + VAT View course
Time Management£20 + VAT View course