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January 5, 2021

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Contact tracing and COVID-19 director’s briefing

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

On Friday 20th March 2020, 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 during lockdowns resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, IFSEC Global understands that the current definition does include an array of security roles – the latest update from the BSIA indicates that key worker remains the same for the latest UK lockdown, which came into force on 5th January 2021. 

In a LinkedIn post on the 5th January, the British Security Industry Association posted: “The BSIA understands that the criteria for our members and the security industry in terms of key worker status remains the same as it did during the first lockdown in March 2020.

“This also includes access to childcare as a key worker now that schools have closed nationally.”


Background to key worker status for security professionals

James Brokenshire, Minister for State for Security at the Home Office gave a general statement back in March 2020 during the first lockdown, which read:

“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 was also released shortly after, reading:

“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 ) at the time, 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 (who held ownership of the account at the time) 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 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 continued to seek further clarification it was 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’.

Industry response to ‘key worker’ status clarification

Calls from the industry to clarify key worker status came thick and fast, during the first lockdown in March 2020, particularly during the week the announcement had gone out from 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.

BSIA-CallForGovernment-20

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) wrote 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 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.”

For the fire sector, the FIA received a reply from the Minister that “extends the key worker status to all fire safety personnel actively working to improve public fire safety.” This statement also continues to be upheld during the third UK lockdown in early 2021. 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 »

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