BSIA Briefing – Brexit and the Private Security Industry – Staffing crises and contingency planning

Thursday 28 February 2019 - BSIA COMMS

There is no doubt that within the media there is a lot of talk about Brexit. With just over a month to go until our decision of which deal to take is made, there is still a lot of speculation regarding exactly what effects this will have on the UK. 

The Brexit Deal – a deal reached with the EU which Parliament has been asked to back after the British public decided to leave. On the website, it summarises very broadly how the current deal leaves us controlling our own borders, protecting jobs and keeping safe from crime and terrorism amongst other things. Without agreeing, we are being told of a damaging uncertainty threatening jobs, investment and the economy. 

A no-deal Brexit – the result of not being able to reach a withdrawal agreement and therefore, immediately disengage with connections to the EU in terms of trade, laws, people, money, the Irish border and more. 

Contingency planning seems to be on the minds of both people and businesses. For the food and drink industry some articles acknowledge a potential strain on supply, should a no-deal take place. Official police advice has not pre-judged shortages, but the idea of some items not being available has led to some people stock-piling resources. As for security, the strains on police could be difficult in the short term and a possible plan to help with large queues could be to turn to hiring private security.

A Met Spokesperson reported that:  “in line with similar advice given at a national level to the retail industry, we are suggesting to retailers that they may wish to consider planning for additional security in the event that concerns about shortages of goods leads to a significant increase in customers.

“We are having these conversations in order to minimize the demands on policing from any resulting large crowds or queues at shops, and as part of our regular civil contingency engagement with businesses and partners.”

But, with the demand for more staff closing near, can the security sector keep up? What happens if EU nationals choose to leave?

Staff and workers has been a hot topic for many sectors, let alone in security. The mainstream media has focused on NHS staff and how many vacancies will be left unfilled should EU27 nationals return home. New vacancies are also focusing on recruiting non-EU staff, but all of this comes at a high cost. 

With future uncertainties about what it will cost EU nationals to stay in the country in terms of money, time and regulations, little can be said as to who will be footing which bill. 

According to the CIPD, since the referendum vote the 2017 Resourcing and Talent Planning Survey reported three-fifths of the organisations anticipated facing increased difficulty in recruiting senior/skilled/technical employees over the following years. Two-fifths expected a similar difficulty in recruiting operational staff. In the summer 2018 survey ‘Labour Market Outlook’, these expectations were proven by showing the median number of applicants per vacancy across all skill levels had fallen. In the same survey, two-thirds of organisations said they would continue to hire EU nationals with the most common reasons for doing so being that they hire the best person suited for the role not based on nationality.  However, 48% of the organisations hiring EU nationals expressed insecurity about their jobs as a result of Brexit. The EU Settlement Scheme has helped with some reassurance but less than one-third are still not confident EU nationals will be retained.  

Dr Alison Wakefield FSyl, Chairman of The Security Institute said: “The government has indicated that, after Brexit, it will place significant restrictions on visas for lower-skilled workers. The government's Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended that the £30,000-a-year minimum salary threshold that is already imposed on non-EU migrant workers should also be applied to migrants from EU countries. The manned guarding industry is therefore likely to face much greater competition with other sectors such as retail, hospitality and catering for a decreasing pool of lower-skilled workers, leading to higher wages and rising security costs. 

“In turn, this is likely to accelerate the shift to technology-based solutions, reducing organisations’ dependence on labour. A number of trade association leaders across sectors such as haulage, housebuilding and hospitality have criticised the MAC's proposals, saying that workers are needed across all levels, and I will be very interested to see the BSIA's position on this.”

Amongst all the different industries being affected by Brexit, the private security industry has shown to be relatively quiet with releasing statements on the impacts this could have. 

Chief Executive of the BSIA, Mike Reddington, was asked about the major challenges the private security industry is presently facing and how to help mitigate these for members. He said: “Technology is moving at a rapid pace and there are also lots of new entrants into the security industry some of who don’t have the knowledge, skill or experience to deliver the products and service that end users require. 

“The BSIA is continually working with its members and partners across all sectors of the professional security industry to ensure a high level of quality and professionalism is maintained in the private security industry through vetting of employees, education and training and that appropriate standards and best practice are implemented. 

“A major challenge, especially to the Security Guarding members, is the increase in the National Living Wage coupled with additional pension costs and stagnant charge rates giving unsustainable low margins within this section of the industry. 

“An additional challenge is also the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and how this will impact migration and the effect that may have on the availability of labour, which will inevitably drive wage inflation. The BSIA is working closely with a range of stakeholders involved in this market to look at how the margins can be lifted using added value, insurance cost reduction and legislation. 

“The BSIA is also actively promoting the security industry across multiple mediums, and promoting ‘Security a career of choice’ to increase the talent and number of people coming into our industry.”

Why aren’t we more prepared? This question was posed by Abbey Petkar, Managing Director of Magenta Security in an opinion piece, published in January 2019. 

He believes a poorly managed Brexit will lead to a staffing crisis within the security sector, especially as security has an incredibly diverse and multi-cultural workforce. The Brexit process could compel some employees to leave and have others feeling unwelcome. Petkar said “I find this in turn somewhat ironic as the immigration and border control challenges that are likely to be a legacy of the Brexit negotiations mean we will need more staff than ever before to support the police, border authority and wider public sector activity at ports and more.” 

Following this, Petkar states how the government has already started to plan for a no-deal Brexit, although it is impossible to plan for all ramifications. He continues, by saying how the security industry leaders need to come together to consider the challenges ahead and how best to deal with them. There is a need to make plans to support the workforce, businesses and more. The general consensus here seems to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. 

On the BSIA website there is now a Brexit page with relevant updates for the private security industry. The page acts as a guide featuring third-party content and is a compendium for members and end-users, containing information regarding the forthcoming withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.  

There is information on Construction Products Regulation (CPR) under a no-deal Brexit, a 44-page document produced by the UK government which comes into force on exit day, if the UK leaves without a deal. This purpose is to ensure a functioning Construction Products Regulation.

The system will maintain the requirement on manufacturers to declare the performance of their products in accordance with standards when the product is placed on the UK market.

Amendments to the current regulations will be made in a number of instances, and existing European standards will become UK ‘designated standards’, which means following a no-deal exit, UK and EU standards will be the same. The new UK standards will be designated by the secretary of state.

The complete statutory instrument that lays out the detail is on the UK Gov website, as well as on the BSIA Brexit page. 

Another area of interest could be the consequences of the UK’s withdrawal regarding Industrial products.

The European Commission published a notice to stakeholders in 2018 regarding the withdrawal of the UK and EU rules in the field of industrial products.

The notice states that unless a ratified withdrawal agreement establishes another date, all Union primary and secondary law will cease to apply to the United Kingdom from 30 March 2019 and the United Kingdom will then become a 'third country'.

In view of the considerable uncertainties, in particular concerning the content of a possible withdrawal agreement, all interested parties, and especially economic operators, are reminded of legal repercussions, which need to be considered when the United Kingdom becomes a third country.

In February 2019 the Commission a follow up Q&A was published from this statement and this can be found on the European Commission's website. 

The full notice is accessible from the European Commission’s website or accessible from the BSIA Brexit page. 

Originally published in Risk UK Magazine