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Should you use your nearest hand car wash?

Nottingham Business School and Social Science Department launch a new research project to map Hand Car Washes across the Midlands

Most people will see hand car washes as a convenient and cheap way to clean their car.  They are a relatively new development across the UK, which have sprung up in disused spaces alongside our main roads. It is now clear to regulators and researchers that you can’t get your car washed lawfully, where operators comply with all legal regulations, for less than £7. Research already conducted by NTU has highlighted a long list of employment, health and safety and environmental issues that might make you reconsider using them especially if you are paying less than that amount.  At NTU, we are looking to shine a light on this industry and provide support to those people visiting QMC with trench foot and acid burns from their time as Hand Car Wash workers. Do we want to be subjecting workers to conditions like these in the 21st century? At NTU, we have several ‘Good Work’ for all projects but see very little good work in the hand car wash sector.

Hand Car Washes are a hot topic in policy circles because of these issues and Professor Ian Clark recently gave evidence to Parliament about the impact of hand car washes on workers and the environment.  The report from the Environmental Audit Committee is due in the coming weeks and our research will answer a number of the pressing questions posed by the Parliamentary Committee. We hope the report from Parliament can help to challenge poor work practices we have observed. Currently policy makers and law enforcement regulators do not possess sufficient robust academic evidence to make accurate decisions, for example, estimates on numbers range from a few thousand to over 20,000 Hand Car Washes in England and Wales.  This research team will create a visual map of hand car washes across the region building on existing expertise in mapping, community profiling and the informal economy to help inform policy. We are aiming to help clean up the muddy picture of the hand car wash sector.

This research project will build on innovative research methods from Nottingham Business School and Criminology to identify and analyse hand car washes across the Midlands.  Our aim is to support the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the Director of Labour Market Enforcement to make a difference to the poor working conditions and pay levels many people are subject to whilst working in these car washes and to help inform society of the nature of informal work that is going on all around them.

This interdepartmental research project will use NTU’s community engagement area classification tool developed by Dr James Hunter which profiles the community engagement, crime and deprivation characteristics of 'neighbourhoods’ across the country. We will use this tool alongside others developed in Nottingham Business School to help identify which types of Hand Car Washes are most prevalent in particular, communities helping us make better estimates on the number of hand car washes across the UK. This will help design regulations, licensing and enforcement plans to tackle workplace and community exploitation, by better understanding connections between workplaces, workers and communities.

The research team will be conducting research into 2019, sharing findings, and policy recommendations in May next year at a public event.

The Team

Prof Ian Clark, Dr James Hunter, Dr Huw Fearnall-Williams, Rich Pickford, Dr Ben Reynolds

To find out more about the project contact Nottingham Civic Exchange.

Nottingham Civic Exchange

Nottingham Civic Exchange has been established by Nottingham Trent University to maximise research, policy and practical impact by bringing together university expertise with partners seeking to address the needs of local communities. Nottingham Civic Exchange acts as a resource to look at social and economic issues in new ways. This means facilitating debate, acting as a bridge between research and policy debates, and developing practical projects at a local, city and regional level.

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Published on 14 November 2018
  • Category: Nottingham Civic Exchange; Research; Nottingham Business School; School of Social Sciences