Regulation of the security industry aims to achieve a more attractive profession for employees and end-users alike. David Sharp examines the issues surrounding the new legislation
21 January 2005
Times are changing in the security industry and private companies are having to act quickly to prepare as higher standards are being called for across the board. Licensing has already been introduced in some areas of the country and it is gradually being rolled out throughout the UK.
With an estimated 300,000 to half a million people working in the UK security business, numbers are set to grow dramatically as demand for reliable security increases. Having historically suffered from a poor reputation, perhaps due to the fact that it has never been properly regulated under the law, the central aim of the new legislation, set up by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) is to help improve the security industry's image.
After 20 years of lobbying for regulation of the security industry, the British Security Industry Association (Bsia) hopes it will create a better and more attractive industry in which to be employed.
Regulation of the security industry has been brought about by the need to ensure both the ability of security personnel and the credibility of them and their clients. There are a number of factors involved in achieving this goal, the criminal record element of the licence is essential for reassurance, while the training and continuous professional development element is particularly important in terms of improving standards and service delivery across the industry. The SIA lists four distinct aims of the licence:
To increase public trust and confidence in the private security industry by setting and maintaining standards of probity and improving the professionalism and opportunities of all who work in the industry
To encourage businesses in the industry to improve their standards by creating a framework for developing, promoting and spreading best practice
To create a security industry centre of knowledge and expertise, which enables and encourageseffective industry development and investment
To strengthen the extended police family by encouraging and supporting further engagement of the private security industry
The SIA will issue licences to people working in different sectors of the security industry including: door supervisors, vehicle immobilisers, private investigators, security consultants and key holders.
Individuals working in the contract security guarding sector in England and Wales, including employees, managers, supervisors and directors of security companies, will require an SIA licence, as will door supervisors (contract and in-house), vehicle immobilisers (contract and in-house), private investigators, security consultants, and key-holders. In-house security officers are not included in licensing at present.
The Bsia and its guarding members have agreed with the SIA to manage the rollout programme throughout this year to ensure that everyone who needs a licence has one by the end of 2005, well before the final date for compliance in January 2006.
Estimates for the cost of regulation are presently in the region of £600 per security officer although people found operating in the industry without a licence could risk prosecution -- the penalty on conviction in a magistrates' court is up to six months' imprisonment, or a £5,000 fine, or both.
Learning from examples of similar legislation in Europe, the authority is aware that, unless it is handled with great care, shortages of people may develop in the early days which will lead to excessive rises in charges.
While the SIA's mission to 'help protect society by collaboratively developing and achieving high standards in the private security industry' is certainly to be applauded, it also brings with it several issues that could adversely affect the industry.
Although it is hoped that in the long term customers will be provided with a higher standard of service, the increased skills required to meet the needs of licensing could create a shortage of licensed security personnel in the short term.
One certain effect of regulation is that costs, wages and prices will rise. Wages are expected to increase by ten to15 per cent, which means it will be the low paying companies that will feel the biggest impact. Profit margins are extremely low in the guarding sector and it is difficult to see how they will be able to easily absorb the increase in costs that regulation will bring about.
End-users must also be prepared to embrace these changes and the price increases over the coming years. Security companies will be given the opportunity to work more closely with customers to combine a more highly skilled workforce with developing technology alternatives.
A new attitude towards security is being called for, one where UK businesses see value instead of price, a person's career instead of a job and a profession not an industry.
David Dickinson, chief executive of the Bsia said: "Soon the UK security industry will be on a par with regulated security sectors in other countries. There, security is considered a profession and customers see a clear return on their investment. Ultimately that is what we aim for and I am confident that by working together we can achieve it."
Whether the industry and businesses can rise to these challenges remains to be seen, but one thing we can all be certain of is that the future of security is now undoubtedly linked to with the level of commitment towards improvement and the success of regulation.
David Sharp is managing director of
Workplace Law Group