Domestic Cleaners in Crisis: Could 'Typhoid Mary' Return to Scotland?


18th January 2021

The national trade association for domestic cleaners has warned that Scotland could be facing another ‘Typhoid Mary’ disaster if the Scottish Government fail to support the country’s domestic cleaning sector.

Mary Mallon, also known as Typhoid Mary, was an Irish-born cook. Cooking in the homes of wealthy families in and around New York City between 1900 and 1907, Mary is believed to have infected 53 people with typhoid fever, three of whom died, and the first person in the United States identified as an asymptomatic carrier of the disease.

Now, the Domestic Cleaning Business Network (DCBN) is warning that domestic cleaners in Scotland are putting households and wider communities at risk through ‘sheer desperation’ caused by their ineligibility for financial support. Unlike their colleagues in England, domestic cleaners in Scotland are currently unable to work apart from those undertaking essential work in people’s homes where they are physically unable to.

As a result, the DCBN, a not-for-profit trade association which provides general advice and resources to domestic cleaning companies across the UK, is actively lobbying the Scottish Government for financial support and supporting cleaners to do the same. The network has also trained almost 200 cleaners allowing them to return to work safely, when they are entitled to do so, as well as providing discounts on products and PPE.

Krissi Foskett, Director of DCBN said, “Although furloughing support is available for cleaning companies with staff, thousands of domestic cleaners working alone have been left high and dry, individuals who have no other source of income to support themselves and put food on the table. How can you close down an industry but then offer them no support?

“As their advisory body, their voice, we absolutely understand the rules and guidelines on domestic cleaning and are repeatedly telling our members that they must stop working for now, to protect the public and themselves. However, with no financial help coupled with a fear that they might lose their clients if they stop, many feel they have no option but to continue going into people’s homes. However, there are huge health risks in doing so. By not supporting our cleaners to ‘stay at home’, we are forcing them out to work. Even if they’re asymptomatic, they could literally be dragging or wiping the virus from one house to the next, potentially creating another Typhoid Mary situation.”

The DCBN also believes there is a message for the general public, the families who employ the domestic cleaners.

Kelly Fairweather, owner and founder of Dundee-based company At Your Service and Associate Director of the Domestic Cleaning Business Network (DCBN) added, “Domestic cleaners should not be entering their clients’ homes but we believe many are continuing to do so. We would therefore appeal to the homeowners to stick to the rules and keep their cleaners away until the guidelines change – to protect themselves and their cleaner - and perhaps consider paying them a retainer while they cannot work. This is an exceptionally tough time for many of us but particularly those whose income stream has been cut off with no financial support in the interim.”

At Your Service is a high-end, modern housekeeping, laundry and concierge service supporting families and business across Dundee, Angus, Perthshire and Fife. While primarily looking after family homes, At Your Service grew significantly during 2020, contracted to risk-assess and clean countless holiday lets and commercial premises from hairdressers and nail salons to offices.

For more information, and to sign up for free support from the DCBN, please visit 

At Your Service Scotland Ltd

At Your Service is a Modern Housekeeping ,Laundry and Concierge Service we look after busy families and small business alike and truly understand the demands of modern life Whatever your need we are truly "At your Service "

Grainger Public Relations

My business is promoting your business. Since 2007, I’ve been helping my clients grow, build credibility and create a buzz by telling their stories in the press and media. With over 20 years’ experience in PR and journalism, you can trust me to get it right, reach your audiences and spread the word, whether in print, online or broadcast media.

Back to news