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October 20, 2022

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Declining payrates for door supervisors – “Rarely have so many, done so much, for so little”

We hear from Rollo Davies F.ISRM, MSyI, as he highlights his concerns over declining payrates for physical security professionals, and in particular door supervisors, over the past 25 years, revealing shocking findings. Rollo’s findings raise the question, how do we change the trend and what can the industry do to change the public perception towards one of respect? 

“Rarely, in the field of British industry, have so many, done so much, for so little.”

Rollo Davies F.ISRM, MSyI

Forgive me for my clumsy paraphrasing of the late great Sir Winston Churchill… It just seemed apt somehow.

None of this will be a surprise to those that have worked in the UK Security Industry for several decades, but it may be hard reading for those who have been part of the problem. I’ll let your conscience decide if this is you or not.

Let’s go back to a time when I saw the security industry as “glamourous”. Yes. I am that old.

Before I joined the Police in 1990, I had some time to kill and needed to keep a roof over my head, and food in my stomach, although, bless her, my Mum wasn’t going to throw me out if I was a bit short on the housekeeping for a week or two.

I can remember looking at the walls full of genuine jobs available at my local job centre, and being tempted by the excellent pay offered for security, cash in transit rolls. Back in the day, the dark blue Securicor (whatever happened to them?) vans would be everywhere, collecting actual cash from big high street shops, and the heroes that seemed to move all this money about appeared to have sawn off shotguns shoved against their helmet covered heads on an almost daily basis (see any episode of “The Sweeny” for verification).

This seemed exceedingly dangerous, but these guys (and they were pretty much all blokes then) were the epitome of brave. Their pay reflected that, earning well over twice the amount that I earned moving crates of pharmaceuticals around a warehouse.

I never applied for any of these jobs then. I didn’t think I was good enough or tough enough.

Smart security officers would also be seen outside big office headquarters. These ex Forces or Police types (the vast majority), were very well paid protection professionals. They were respected and any local troublemakers would give them a wide birth for fear of receiving a thick ear. Rose tinted spectacles? Well, I can remember being a bit scared of the commissionaire at my local cinema, so no. I think not.

So, over three of four decades, how did respected, well rewarded, security professionals, become derided, minimum wage, and – although I hate the term, it is endemic these days – shirt fillers?

How would I know? It is a subject that could fill more books than Penguin could ever publish.

But I took a look at one very important aspect of any security officer’s job. Pay.


Declining payrates make for “pretty depressing” results

I have my ideas about whether remuneration is a cause or effect of the industry’s decline. Maybe next time.

Here goes…

I looked at UK average historic salaries, and how pay rates have changed in the UK security industry in comparison. I’ll warn you now, the results are pretty depressing.

With no standard security industry related figures available, possibly for good reason, I have used my own personal frontline pay in both the Door Security and Corporate Security sectors in 1996, and combined these with the rates paid by the company I did occasional ops management work for, during the same year, to provide historic figures. I was London-based so my apologies if your local area had vastly different figures.

The security industry figures used are anecdotal, absolutely, but I believe this will not be too far from the actual figures.

Getting to the numbers

To start, let’s look at the average pay for UK salaries across all sectors and jobs, and how it has changed over the period between 1996 and 2022.

  • UK 1996 average full time annual salary, circa £13,652
  • UK 2022 average full time annual salary, circa £31,285

A 129.2% overall increase. So, put simply, most people’s pay has increased by significantly – more than double over this 26-year period (figures obtained via Google at 3am so please don’t dwell too much on my academic rigour).

How has the security industry fared during this period, in contrast?

  • 1996 London corporate S/O Salary (54hr week) £18,252 (£6.50ph)
  • 2022 London corporate S/O Salary (48hr week) £32,448 (£13ph)

A 77.8% increase. Fewer hours are listed due to many companies now using a 48hr maximum week or using a ‘four on, four off’ 42 hour rota system. This figure would be significantly more if an old 54 or 60 hour week was used, but I felt it to be an unfair comparison.

Nothing. But nothing. Prepared me for the frankly scandalous sector I looked at next.

Door Supervisors in the UK face obscene levels of violence at work. Many have died. They are not lawfully allowed to carry anything that may be used for self-defence, and worse of all, the chance of a swift Police response to any life-threatening incident that they report, is negligible. Somehow society has decided that the men and women that work at licenced premises, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their patrons and the public, are supposed to expect and tolerate the violence against them. Obscene.

But surely, the huge pay levels more than compensate for the risks, danger, lack of respect and pitiful back up? Brace yourselves…

  • 1996 London Door Supervisor. Hourly Rate £10 – £12.50ph (£11.25 average used)
  • 2022 London Door Supervisor. Hourly Rate £12 -£14ph (£13 average used)

This results in a 15.5% increase!

A worrying trend affecting the status of the physical security sector?

I absolutely acknowledge, as stated, that ballpark figures are used for current security pay rates, based on observations from online recruitment websites, but I think that this illustrates the undeniable decline in the status of the UK’s physical security sector.

Who would be a Door Supervisor today with just 15% more pay than 24 years ago! Ladies and gentlemen on the doors, I salute you.

I love the security industry. The protection of people and property cannot be a more honourable or valuable profession, but all the job satisfaction in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t afford to keep the lights on or put food on the table.

Next time you feel the need to abuse the security officer that has made you late for work by thoroughly checking your ID, or the Door Supervisor that won’t let you in to the packed to capacity club, stop and think. They are there for your benefit and protection.

And would you do what they do for the comedy money that they earn?

About the author

Rollo Davies F.ISRM, MSyI is a passionate campaigner for increased standards across the security industry. He left the Metropolitan Police Service in 1992 and has over 30 years’ experience in the private security sector. He was, until recently, editor of TPSO (The Professional Security Officer) magazine, co-founder of the Guild of Security Industry Professionals and co-chair of the security institute’s front line operatives special interest group. IFSEC Global ranked him world #2 for security industry “thought leadership” in 2019, the same year that he won the Security Institute’s “George Van Schalkwyk” award, for outstanding contribution to the UK security industry.


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