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March 27, 2020

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Update on clarification of ‘key worker’ status for the security industry

On Friday 20th March, calls were made from various associations in the security industry for the UK Government to clarify the status of security professionals under its list of key worker definitions. Since then, IFSEC Global understands that the current definition does include an array of security roles – the latest update comes from the SIA on 26th March. 

James Brokenshire, Minister for State for Security at the Home Office has currently given a general statement, as follows:

“Security & fire safety personnel can play a vital role at this time of national challenge. People working in these sectors who are essential to national infrastructure are “Key Workers” for the purposes of the Government’s guidance on COVID-19.”

A new statement given to the SIA (full details here) on the morning of the 26th March has also been released, reading as follows:

“Roles essential to supporting law and order, with the potential to reduce demand on policing, also meet the critical worker definition. This would include, amongst other areas, the guarding of empty or closed commercial, retail or office premises; the monitoring of similar through CCTV or other remote means; and the provision of alarm response centres including mobile units.”

Ian Todd, Chief Executive of the Security Industry Authority (SIA ), added: “If your role does not clearly fall under the headings above then you may still travel to work, if that work absolutely cannot be done from home. Your aim should be to stay at home whenever possible. If this is not viable then assess whether you can deliver more services remotely e.g. through CCTV. If a physical presence is required then you should seek to minimise the number of staff deployed to the lowest safe level and ensure social distancing is applied.

“Note that in any circumstance, critical worker or otherwise, the Prime Minister has been very clear that ensuring social distancing remains the responsibility of the employer.

“These are difficult questions in unprecedented times. They are not easy and no-one else can answer them for you. You will need to apply judgement, with the aim of minimising social contact where possible. The words to focus on are ‘necessary’, ‘critical’ and ‘essential’, otherwise please stay at home and minimise the transmission risks for the benefit of your health, your families, the general public and the NHS.”

Further to this, the SIA had already confirmed that the current definition does include regulated (licence holding) security professionals, essential to the national infrastructure, operating in critical roles under the eight broad headings listed (more details can be found here):

  • Health & social care
  • Education & childcare
  • Key public services (justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, journalists and broadcasting)
  • Local & national government
  • Food & other necessary goods
  • Public safety & national security
  • Transport
  • Utilities, communication & financial services

This news was released on Saturday March 21st, as Ian Todd, Chief Executive of the Security Industry Authority (SIA ) tweeted:

Mr Todd went on to add: “These are unprecedented times, which we will only get through by working together.”

VIEWPOINT: Should security professionals be considered key workers? 

The BSIA has since updated its website, for further clarification on the matter. It highlights its understanding of the guidance: “If you provide a service to an institution or business that is classified as critical, necessary and relevant (security provision in hospitals; social care; courts; government estate; supermarkets and the food supply chain; the transport network; national infrastructure and utilities), and their employees are classified as ‘Key Worker’ and the services you provide is required to enable them to continue to function safely, it means your staff are also deemed to be part of the ‘Key Worker’ group. This is because without your support/services these critical functions may not be able to operate.”

While associations are continuing to seek further clarification, particularly after the recent statement from Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, bringing in stricter controls in the UK, it is advised that security companies identify which of their employees fall under the category and act accordingly. For those with children needing to go to school, the BSIA has produced a ‘letter template for schools’.

Calls from industry continue for ‘key worker’ status clarification

Calls from the industry to clarify key worker status had grown on Friday, during the week the announcement had gone out via the UK Government. The BSIA felt that its member companies employ a significant number of personnel in these critical roles and the Association believes these roles fall within the ‘key workers’ classification.


In particular, the BSIA had called for clarification on the following:

  • Whether workers who have school aged children in mainstream education from security services such as cash couriers and ATM providers, security guarding companies, security systems and CCTV operators can be classed as critical workers and therefore able to operate on a ‘business as usual’ case – meaning their key workers are exempt from their children being sent home.
  • Whether security companies who provide services such as cash couriers and ATM providers, security guarding companies, security systems and CCTV operators can be classed as critical services under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and be exempt from any relevant restrictions placed upon transport and travelling, office working and property guarding, remotely and physically.

Advice and news from the various associations in the sector can be found at the links below:

Alongside the BSIA, the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB) has written to James Brokenshire, highlighting the important role the sector plays in the British economy to ensure the safety and security of individuals and premises during this time of national crisis. The Board states it is currently waiting for a reply to the letter.

The National Security Inspectorate (NSI), also supported these calls to ensure their critical role in protecting society can continue uninterrupted during the COVID-19 crisis.

NSI Chief Executive, Richard Jenkins commented: “Classifying private security employees as “key workers” will help to ensure the continued delivery of vital services, securing and safeguarding property and the public.  The resources of public security and emergency services are already stretched and it is imperative the private security sector has the freedom it requires to contribute its full part in supporting colleagues in the emergency services at this crucial time.”

Both the SSAIB and NSI have commented: “It is vital to the national interest that the staff of registered firms certificated by UKAS-accredited certification bodies (e.g. SSAIB and NSI) working in the security and safety sectors are classed as Key Workers at this most difficult and challenging time.”

Jamie Allam, CEO of Amthal Fire & Security, an SSAIB accredited company says: “In the current uncertain environment, we are supporting this initiative, as a private fire and security company that is well positioned to provide necessary security to support all business, and indeed residential homes.  We believe this is vital to maintain a sense of safety for business owners and employees working remotely, ensuring their building and assets are kept safe and secure.”

Jamie concludes: “By becoming key workers, our staff will be able to travel without restriction and also have peace of mind that their children can attend school as necessary.  We can then commit and play our part to ensuring the safety and security of buildings, critical not only to the fight against COVID-19, but also to enable businesses and homes to protect what’s precious, ensuring they are best placed to open for business as usual, when we are able to do so.”

For the fire sector, the FIA has received a reply from the Minister that “extends the key worker status to all fire safety personnel actively working to improve public fire safety.” You can find out more on this, here.

You can find the Government’s definitions of key workers, announced on 20th March, here.

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Jerry Morgan
Jerry Morgan
March 24, 2020 3:49 pm

With respect I think we in the security industry have to be careful not plead for blanket special status in this national emergency (and not be seen to do so as well) and accept that the school provision is for key workers. School provision is a big ask for school staff at this critical time and they are working over Easter holidays on rotas while caring for their own families and children. We are needed to run essential engineering support and guarding on a reduced basis where it is needed whether for NHS, Blue Light service and so on or… Read more »