Understandably, there’s presently much talk within the mainstream media concerning Brexit, writes Mike Reddington. With less than a month to go now until the politicians’ decision in terms of which road to travel is made, there’s still a good deal of speculation regarding exactly what effects the eventual path will have on the UK as a whole.
Brexit Deal – A deal reached with the European Union (EU) which Parliament has been asked to back after the British public decided to leave in the wake of the 2016 EU Referendum. The brexitdealexplained.campaign.gov.uk website neatly summarises in broad terms how the current deal leaves us when it comes to controlling our own borders, protecting jobs and keeping the nation and its citizens safe from crime and terrorism (among other things). If no deal is agreed, we’re being warned of a damaging uncertainty that threatens jobs, investment and the economy.
No-Deal Brexit – The result of not being able to reach a Withdrawal Agreement and, therefore, the UK immediately disengaging from the EU on Friday 29 March in terms of trade, laws, people, money, the Irish border and more.
Not surprisingly, contingency planning is very firmly on the minds of both individuals and businesses. In the food and drink industry, for example, some published articles acknowledge a potential strain on supply should a no-deal scenario take place. Official police advice hasn’t pre-judged any shortages, but the idea of some items not being available has caused some people to stockpile resources.
As for security, the strains that could be placed on the police service may prove somewhat difficult in the short term. A possible plan to assist with large queues could necessitate a focus on hiring private security back-up.
Commenting on this matter, a Metropolitan Police Service spokesperson has stated: “In line with similar advice given at a national level to the retail industry, we’re suggesting to retailers that they may wish to consider planning for additional security in the event that concerns about shortages of goods lead to a significant increase in customers. We’re having these conversations in order to minimise 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 partner organisations.”
Keeping pace with demand
With the demand for more security staff looming large at present, can the security sector keep pace with demand? What happens if EU nationals do choose to leave these shores?
Staff and workers have been a hot topic for many business sectors, let alone in the security world. The mainstream media has tended to focus on NHS staff and how many vacancies will be left unfilled should EU27 nationals return home. New vacancies are also focusing on the recruitment of non-EU staff, but all of this comes at a high cost.
With future uncertainties about what it will cost EU nationals to remain 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 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, since the EU Referendum took place the following year’s Resourcing and Talent Planning Survey reported three-fifths of the organisations questioned anticipating having to face increased difficulty in recruiting senior/skilled/technical employees over the following years. Two-fifths expected a similar difficulty in recruiting operational staff.
Last year’s ‘Labour Market Outlook’ Survey proved these expectations by showing that 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 and don’t base their decision 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 to some degree with that reassurance, but less than one-third are still not confident EU nationals will be retained.
Security guarding market
Dr Alison Wakefield FSyl, chairman of The Security Institute, observed: “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 per annum minimum salary threshold that’s already imposed on non-EU migrant workers should also be applied to migrants from EU countries. The security guarding industry is therefore likely to face much greater competition from other sectors including retail, hospitality and catering for a decreasing pool of lower-skilled workers, in turn leading to higher wages and rising security costs.”
Wakefield added: “Such a scenario is likely to accelerate the shift towards technology-based solutions, in turn 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, stating that workers are needed across all skill levels. I’ll be very interested to learn the BSIA’s position on this issue.”
Among all of the different industries being affected by Brexit, the private security industry has shown itself to be relatively quiet when it comes to releasing statements on its potential impacts.
As CEO of the BSIA, I’ve been asked about the major challenges the private security industry is presently facing and how we can help mitigate them for members. Technology is moving at a rapid pace and there are also lots of new entrants to the security industry, some of whom simply don’t have the knowledge, skills or experience necessary to deliver the services and solutions that today’s end users require. The BSIA is continually working with its members and partners across all sectors of the professional security industry to ensure that a high level of quality and professionalism is maintained at all times through the vetting of employees as well as education and training, and also that appropriate standards and Best Practice are implemented.
A major challenge, and especially so for the BSIA’s Security Guarding Section members, is the increase in the National Living Wage coupled with additional pension costs and stagnant charge rates yielding unsustainable low margins within this section of the industry. An additional challenge is 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 in this market to look at how the margins can be lifted by dint of using added value, insurance cost reductions and legislation.
The BSIA is also actively promoting the security industry and promoting the idea of security as a career of choice with a view to increasing the talent levels and numbers of people coming into our industry.
Is the security sector prepared?
Why isn’t the security industry more prepared for Brexit? This is a question that has been posed by Abbey Petkar, managing director of Magenta Security. He believes a poorly-managed Brexit will lead to a staffing crisis within the security sector, especially so as the security world harbours an incredibly diverse and multi-cultural workforce. The Brexit process could compel some employees to leave and engender others to feel unwelcome.
Petkar has stated: “I find this scenario 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 service, the border authorities and, indeed, wider public sector activity at ports and more.”
Petkar also mentioned how the Government has already started to plan for a no-deal Brexit, although it’s impossible to plan for all ramifications. He feels security industry leaders need to come together to consider the challenges ahead and how best to deal with them. There’s a need to make plans now to support the workforce and businesses. The general consensus here seems to be that we need to prepare for the worst and continue hoping for the best.
On the BSIA’s website there’s now a dedicated Brexit page containing relevant updates for the private security industry. The page acts as a guide. It features third party content and is a compendium for members and end users alike.
There’s information on the Construction Products Regulation under a no-deal Brexit. This is a 44-page document produced by the UK Government which comes into force on ‘Exit Day’ (if the UK does leave the EU without a deal). The overriding purpose is to ensure a continually functioning Construction Products Regulation.
The system will maintain the requirement on security solution 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. Existing European standards would become UK ‘designated standards’. This means that, 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 setting out the detail can be found on the BSIA’s Brexit page.
Consequences for industrial products
Another area of interest could be the consequences of the UK’s impending 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. This notice states that, unless a ratified Withdrawal Agreement establishes another date, all EU primary and secondary law will cease to apply to the UK from 30 March 2019 and the UK will then become a ‘third country’.
In view of the considerable uncertainties involved, in particular concerning the content of a possible Withdrawal Agreement, all interested parties – and notably so economic operators – are reminded of the legal repercussions which need to be considered should the UK become a ‘third country’.
Mike Reddington is CEO of the British Security Industry Association