I know this thread is a couple weeks old, but I'm new and I thought this might be a good thread to answer.
I read all the threads on here about hiring cleaning help because I love to know what clients are thinking. Everyone has different expectations, but I see repeated themes when people are disappointed.
To answer the OP's question:
What you pay a cleaner will vary with the cleaner. Finding a good one can be hard, so when you find one you like treat her (or him) like gold and keep communicating with them. Everybody makes mistakes in their jobs sometimes and nobody can read minds, so if the cleaner seems like a decent, honest, reliable person, give them the benefit of the doubt and communicate any issues ASAP. Don't brood on them and let them fester.
OK, regarding price:
There are three basic models of cleaning outfits.
1. The Agency. Maid2Clean is a nationwide example of this model, as they are a franchise. They operate by advertising that they'll send an insured, vetted cleaner to you. The cleaner is "self-employed" and you will pay them in cash. It's usually about £6.50 or £7 an hour. Then, you will sign a contract with the agency and they will take money out of your bank account monthly or quarterly, usually the equivalent of about £3 more per hour. You provide all the equipment and materials and chemicals. They will send you a different cleaner if there is someone out sick or if the one they've sent you doesn't suit you.
I do not think highly of this model. The rate of pay is rather low and all the agency is doing is getting the sales and then recruiting warm bodies to fill the jobs. What sort of dedication and quality can you ordinarily expect from someone making £6.50 an hour with no holiday pay or NI? I have heard many, many people say they have been disappointed by agency cleaners and quite a few complain that getting out of the contracts is very hard.
2. The cleaning company. They can be small, local concerns or national franchises like Molly Maids. Their cleaners should be full employees, but a lot try to cut costs by hiring as "self-employed." They generally - but not always - provide the materials and equipment.
(A word about self-employment: someone who is defined as self-employed will not be fully trained, uniformed, or even required to carry out the work themselves. Self employment should mean some level of autonomy.
Cleaning companies can charge anywhere from £12 - £25 an hour, although at the higher end of the scale, you'll find they're unlikely to bill by the hour. They quote by the job. You can be sure, however, that they're pricing by the hour as they have to pay employees at least an hourly minimum wage and cover overhead, etc.
The advantage to a cleaning company, if it's well run, is they should have all the insurance in order, cleaners should be paying taxes like good citizens, and there should be training, quality control, and cover for cleaners who are ill or on holiday. They will have done background checks on their employees.
3. The independent. This is just someone who is cleaning as an independent. Sometimes, they may work with a friend or partner. Their rates are all over the place. Their quality is all over the place. If you find a good independent, you can probably pay £10-£12 an hour. Maybe more, maybe less. The problem is that the good ones are often booked solid because good cleaners are relatively rare and they are in high demand. And, independents don't have anyone to cover for them when they are ill or something. Not all independents have insurance, but many do. Not all pay their taxes, but many do. There is a huge variability in professionalism. Some supply everything but many will use your hoover and supplies.
I have heard bad things about a national franchise that charges £50 for about two hours of cleaning and good things about independents who charge £9 an hour. It's really all over the place.
You should look to see if they are professional. Do they have insurance? What kind? Do they have their own supplies? I am of the opinion that someone who takes cleaning very seriously as a professional will have their own supplies and equipment, often from janitorial supply warehouses. I wouldn't want anyone cleaning for me who could not produce a print-out of a clean police record and proof of insurance, as well as some references from people they've cleaned for.
Regarding pricing: I see most people talking in terms of paying by the hour, and most of those wanting two hours of cleaning. I think people default to this model because it's easy to understand and the terms are fairly clear. However, some will quote by the job. If someone quotes by the job, then you should not worry about how long they take. Pay attention only to performance. If they get your house immaculate and sparkling, it shouldn't matter if this takes them one hour or three. Many cleaners get faster and faster over time. Sometimes this is because they get sloppy. But, it is a fact that once the house is up to a certain standard, and once the cleaner knows your home and what you want, they will eventually be somewhat faster.
Personally, I charge by the job (based on my idea of how long it will take) and make it clear that I may be three hours at the start, and then as quick as two hours in the future, depending on the state of the house when I start cleaning. But, I am in the minority and everyone has their own preference.
I hope that this has been somewhat helpful to you.
Thanks for responses. So Im looking at about £10/hour then? I only know of two people who have a cleaner so I shall begin by asking them and then Ill ask around if necessary.
I never know how long it takes to do my cleaning as I do bits and bobs throughout the week not one whole block. I have a three bedroom house with one bathroom/loo. And downstairs there are just two rooms (lounge and kitchen/diner). I wonder how long that would take someone to clean in one block.
Im planning all this for when Im pregnant which could be ages away! LOL! Last time I really struggled with a LOT of nausea, tiredness, depression, painful varicose veins and, most seriously, pain on my previous CS scars. I absolutely HATE being pregnant. This would be my fourth baby and having a cleaner is the only thing thats making the prospect of pregnancy bearable again. And Id definitely need help after the CS as last time I tried to do too much too soon and made my recovery very slow.
Im not even pregnant yet, what am I like?! Nothing like being prepared!!!
Last one - word of mouth and £10/hr. I think the first place to start is asking your friends/neighbours if anyone knows someone. I felt very comfortable letting her have a key as I felt that she was 'known' (as in she was friends with my friends). I have used agencies before that though. You could post an advert in the local paper/shop/supermarket.