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Safe and secure

Richard Jenkins, Chief Executive of the National Security Inspectorate, explains how FMs will benefit from a new Code of Practice covering labour provision of front-line guarding staff

The enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic, its economic ramifications and the impact on security is yet to fully unfold. NSI joined other organisations this Spring in the call for specialist employees in approved security and fire safety companies to be classified as Key Workers, given their vital work in, amongst other areas, the security of empty or closed commercial, retail or office premises, and additional front of house security most apparent in retail environments.

FM managers are unwittingly at some risk from the security guarding sector’s widespread use of sub-contracted labour. This practice, commonly used by commercial suppliers of security services to upscale staffing resources when required, enhances providers’ operational efficiency and effectiveness. When professionally managed, it ensures security standards are not compromised in fulfilling security contracts.

The COVID-19 crisis has placed new additional demands upon organisations that manage and monitor access to a wide variety of premises, with additional security officers now being deployed to maintain social distancing as much as for more traditional reasons. This only increases the likely deployment of security staff sourced from labour providers.

However, instances where inadequate procedures linked to the use of sub-contracted labour pose a risk to the safety and security of the public, prejudice the integrity of the supply chain, and offer unwelcome scope for worker exploitation. For buyers of security services, such as facilities owners and site managers, this in turn carries the potential for reputational damage.

Calling on uncontrolled labour providers to supply often short-notice security officers, whilst common practice, presents a risk to buyers and potentially undervalues some of those we now recognise as Key Workers. In the worst-case scenario, rogue labour could have devastating results and, all parties to the contract might suffer from attendant fallout. Managing the risk, and helping ensure best practice prevails is clearly important.

One of the biggest challenges security companies face in retaining and winning new business is competition from others whose labour providers utilise a self-employed labour model. Buyers are often unaware of the risks they carry when appointed contractors are driven by cost to these providers. Why? NSI auditing experience encounters many incidents of labour providers resorting to less than sound employment practices. The risk to main contractors and buyers is severe: a lack of security screening, SIA licensing and right-to-work checks are typical of poor practice, risks which both the main security contractor and the client unwittingly shoulder.

Neither the main security contractor nor their client can be certain security labour provided on site at any one time is bona fide. Are buyers aware that unchecked, this practice can present a threat to both their assets and public safety? And what of the security officers? Why would they choose self-employment when clearly it can disadvantage them in terms of a minimum wage protection, sick pay, pension, holiday pay and NI contributions? Self-employment is generally not the free choice of the security officer: it is a condition often forced upon them in accepting work.

NSI has taken the initiative through its development of a new Code of Practice, NCP 119, for the ‘Provision of Labour in the Security and Events Sector’. The scope of NCP 119 covers all labour provision to companies operating in the regulated security and events sector. By definition, the term “labour provision” used in the NSI Code of Practice applies to activities which are described as bought-in-labour, licensed or unlicensed, as well as labour employed and/or supplied by a third party to temporarily supplement the contracting company’s own workforce.

Among the aims of this new Code is a solution to problems including an absence of adequate checks and monitoring of deployed security officer SIA licences, security screening to BS 7858, adherence to Working Time Regulations, the paying of minimum wage, and checks on right to work and employment status.

The new Code of Practice has been developed to enable companies providing labour to security companies to demonstrate best practice by holding independent certification in the scope of ‘Provision of labour in the security and events sectors’, as having been audited against the requirements of NCP 119.

Importantly, approval to the Code by supply chain partners demonstrates to buyers of services a supply chain commitment to meeting statutory and legislative requirements, as well as meeting certain relevant environmental, social and governance criteria in the provision of services delivered. Companies procuring additional labour to support service delivery on their contracts can, in future, use approval to this Code of Practice as a specified requirement in their supply chain processes to provide an assurance that their provider has been audited against the requirements of NCP 119.

NSI began offering approval to the Code on 1st April this year and as a new mandatory requirement NSI Gold and Silver approved companies are required to ensure that by 31st December 2021 all labour providers in their supply chain are also approved. The intention is to demonstrate to buyers, that professional standards and staff welfare are maintained, as verified by regular ongoing independent audit and the holding of a Certificate of Approval. In this way, risks that pervade the security guarding and events management sectors with respect to labour provision can be mitigated, protecting the buyer, main contractor, key workers in the sector and the general public they serve.

NCP 119’s requirements include measures related to best practice in terms of organisational structure, finances, payroll, insurance and premises. They also include personnel, sale of services, operations and documentation, and record keeping. Training is a significant requirement of the Code for organisations employing security officers and event staff.

The Code requires organisations to have clearly defined and documented training policies, providing induction training to all staff in matters related to employment and the organisation’s procedures, and training being demonstrably completed before each employee is deployed to any assignment.

COVID-19 has exposed supply chain weakness in many sectors. In security guarding services supply chain partners’ approval to this Code of Practice will ensure its integrity and the ability of labour providers to meet statutory and legislative requirements, staff wellbeing and relevant environmental, social and governance criteria – reinforcing best practice for the benefit of all parties.

Adoption of the new Code will provide reassurance of labour providers’ ability to provide skilled, trained and vetted staff who, in turn, will protect facilities and those working in them to the standard that is rightly expected from FMs and other buyers of these important services.

Organisations wishing to find out more about and apply for approval to the new Code of Practice may contact the NSI Applications team at applications@nsi.org.uk.

About Sarah OBeirne


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