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February 22, 2023

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The Video Surveillance Report 2023

Security officers

Training, pay-rates and protection for UK security operatives in 2023 – Opportunities for change?

In 2022, Working the Doors, an online community forum for Security Industry Authority licenced UK security operatives, released the results of a ground-breaking survey it carried out. Almost 2,000 professionals provided their views and opinions on everything from training provisions through to pay rates and subcontracting.

Here, the Working the Doors (WTD) team reveals three key areas of the sector that require urgent attention according to its findings – training, pay rates, and legal protection for security officers.   

WorkingtheDoors-SecurityIndustry2023-23


John Adams, Second President of the United States, used to say that “every problem is an opportunity in disguise”. This sentiment would certainly seem apt when examining the present condition of the UK’s security industry.

Earlier this year, we conducted a study that took a close look at everything from working conditions, training, and pay rates, to the effects that events such as the Manchester Arena Bombing, Brexit, and the global coronavirus pandemic have had on the industry.

Based on our research, Adams’ famous quote would certainly seem to apply to the British security industry at the end of 2022/beginning of 2023.

Undeniably, the industry has a lot of problems, some that may seem intractable (for the moment, at least). However, these problems clearly illustrate a need for change – and the areas in which the industry is presently struggling most offer us a clear path to improvement.

Yes, there are serious problems, but there are also opportunities to create positive, lasting change that benefits everyone.

The stakes have certainly never been higher. Our research has consistently demonstrated that security workers throughout the UK are being overworked, under-valued, under-paid, and regularly forced into new and unfamiliar roles, all while the amount of training remains perilously low, the levels of violence faced by them are increasing, and public expectations continue to rise.

If situations such as these are not remedied soon, the results could be nothing short of disastrous.

With the security industry collectively taking on ever-greater responsibilities, excellence is no longer a preference, it has become a prerequisite. But what can the industry do to continue to provide it, and even improve, under such challenging circumstances?

As always, we believe that the workforce will lead the way. By examining the data from our most recent study, we have been able to pinpoint three key areas that require urgent attention.

Training: “In the field of security, training is an issue of safety”

Our studies have routinely pointed to a need for improved training within the security industry. In 2021, for example, we found that 68% of those operatives we interviewed had not received any additional training following their initial SIA qualification course.

In that same year, the UK Government introduced mandatory top-up training for security operatives. This, we feel, is a step in the right direction, as it includes anti-terror training (introduced, at least in part, in response to recommendations from the Manchester Arena Inquiry), as well as additional first-aid training. However, in most cases, this training must be completed at the personal expense of the operatives.

When we asked our respondents what they thought of this, 83.1% told us that they felt it was patently unfair to force the operatives themselves to pay for their own mandatory training. 51.5% said that they felt the SIA should pay for it. This is especially understandable considering the UK’s current cost of living crisis, as well as the non-competitive wages presently being offered for security industry positions.

Government data shows a dramatic reduction of SIA license renewal applications at around the same time this new training was introduced. 18.9% of license holders chose not to renew their license between June – November of 2021, and the same period in 2022.

This may not be entirely due to the extra fees incurred by the advent of top-up training, but it’s worth noting that license renewals were rising throughout 2020, and only started decreasing after the new training was introduced.

In almost no other industry would employees be expected to take on additional responsibilities without adequate training in their new roles, yet this is par for the course in the UK security industry.

In the field of security, training is an issue of safety. Paradoxically, improperly trained security operatives present a risk to security – the very opposite of their intended function.

A particularly egregious example of this occurred before the Manchester Arena attack, when inadequate training and threat assessment on the part of the venue’s security operatives led them to tolerate the presence of a serious and acknowledged threat to the safety of the public – with immeasurably tragic results.

In general, ongoing training boosts confidence and morale, it helps operatives to feel valued, and prepares them for greater responsibilities, as well as increasing efficiency. Typically, employees who are well and regularly re-trained are less likely to leave their employer due to feelings of professional stagnation or simply not feeling valued.

Once again, this is a big worry for the security industry, as so much of an operative’s job performance comes from experience. It can be very costly to lose an experienced security operative – and not just financially. There’s simply no training that can prepare new operatives for some of the challenges they will encounter on the frontline. Learning first-hand, from a seasoned operative, is priceless. However, with license renewals dropping, many long-term operatives seem to be leaving the industry, replaced by inexperienced and under-trained operatives who are then hurried into positions that they aren’t yet ready to fill.

According to our respondents, some additional training is taking place, however. 55% told us that they have received extra training since qualifying for an SIA license. However, 46% of these operatives also revealed that they had undertaken the training of their own volition, and at their own expense.

From a business standpoint, regular training increases employee engagement, company growth, employee satisfaction, customer loyalty and trust, productivity, and company consistency. It also addresses internal weaknesses, strengthening the business from within.

Pay rates: “Security operatives’ pay needs to reflect their responsibilities”

Pay rates within the security industry are typically very low. SIA surveys conducted in 2021 found that the average rate of pay for a British security operative was between £10 and £12 an hour. They concluded that this pay rate has not improved significantly since similar research was conducted by the Authority back in 2006.

Our own research confirms this. By looking at data concerning the UK’s average hourly wage, and contrasting it with UK minimum wage data, as well as information provided by our own respondents, we found that security industry wages are getting worse, not better.

Money-BudgetPixabay-22In 2000, when the average hourly wage was £8.91, and the minimum wage was £3.61, new security workers were earning £8 – £9 an hour, with a decent percentage pulling in even more than that.

10 years later, the average wage was £12.83, an increase of 40%. The minimum wage was £5.93. The average new security worker, however, was making just £9 – £10 an hour.


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


As of 2021, (wherein the average hourly wage was an estimated £15.65, while the national minimum wage was £8.91) a majority of newly licensed security workers were only making £9 – £10 an hour. Only 3% were making the national average wage, despite the many risks to physical and mental wellbeing posed by security work, as well as the additional costs involved in paying for licenses and training.

This lack of competitive pay rates is certainly a factor in many operatives’ choice not to renew their licenses, and thereby leave the industry. New operatives will also be inclined to look elsewhere for better pay, and a highly important and specialised UK industry will come to be seen as a minimum wage ‘stepping stone’ to greater things, instead of a job with an incredible level of responsibility behind it (responsibilities that, as discussed above and in the study, are growing all the time).

Security operatives’ pay needs to reflect their responsibilities, hazards faced, and work rate. This is greatly needed by the industry, as much as by the operatives themselves.

Legal protections: “Security operatives are afforded no more legal protections against assault than any other member of the public”

In 2018, Parliament passed the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act. The act provided emergency workers with greater legal protections if they are assaulted (instituting far harsher punishments for those who would attack members of the emergency services).

Those protected by the act include police officers, paramedics, firefighters, NHS staff, prison officers, and more besides. However, the only security operatives covered are those employed by hospitals.

Security operatives, even CCSOs, are afforded no more legal protections against being assaulted than any other member of the public, something which, as our research has shown, is increasing at an almost unprecedented rate.

At WTD, we called for the Government to intervene and create a Security Workers Act, or simply to amend the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act to include security workers. It feels unfair, not to mention dangerous, to expect security operatives to put themselves at risk without offering any legal protection when they do.


Summary

WorkingtheDoors-JasparArtSecurityofficers-23In summary, there is obviously a lot of work to do. However, within our problems lie pathways to solutions. These are solutions that can benefit not only the industry, but all British society.

In the Manchester Arena Inquiry, Sir John Saunders made two recommendations, referenced in the report as ‘MR7’ and ‘MR8’. These concerned the extending of regulations, as well as SIA licensing, to cover the entirety of the industry.

The idea is to ensure a better standard of working practice, as well as increased accountability, throughout the security industry. To do so would naturally improve standards of training, and could conceivably be used to improve wages as well (partly because it could be used to end the harmful practice of sub-sub-contracting).

We at WTD believe that these recommendations should be enacted, both in the interest of public safety, as well as the health and growth of the security industry in this country. After all, the two are intimately linked.

 

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