The real living wage and the security sector

Posted On 12 Aug 2020
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Richard Jenkins, Chief Executive NSI

Richard Jenkins, Chief Executive of the National Security Inspectorate, examines important challenges facing the security sector, including potential future skilled labour shortages and the value of the real Living Wage.

There are now over 6500 Living Wage employers in the UK, including 71 security providers, as well as more than 140 Recognised Service Providers in the security and FM sectors. Security is a sector also plagued by poor employment practices at the margins, which in the final analysis undermine the industry, can breach minimum pay rates and pose a risk to buyers.

Amongst the key topics affecting the security sector addressed at the 2020 NSI-sponsored Thought Leadership Summit, held shortly before the Covid-19 lockdown, the merits of the Real Living Wage generated considerable interest. Delegates from across the industry engaged with a lively, informative and thought provoking programme, organised in association with the Outstanding Security Performance Awards (OSPAs).

Notwithstanding the far reaching effects on employment of the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic and Government’s recent proposals for addressing entry to the UK of low-skilled labour from Europe, potential shortages of suitable skilled trained security officers and questionable pay rates are topics that are not going away.

As an independent UKAS-accredited certification body specialising in the security and fire safety sectors in the UK, NSI is committed to working with Approved Companies and industry stakeholders to help ensure buyers have sustainable access to approved providers of services whose staff are capable in demonstrating competence and motivated to deliver good service.

NSI recently took the initiative to develop a new Code of Practice, NCP 119, for the ‘Provision of Labour in the Security and Events Sector’.  The aim of the Code is to raise standards of service provision and social responsibility in the use of labour resources by addressing the resilience of the supply chain to deliver bona fide labour.

It is designed to reduce security risk by ensuring the adoption of best practice by labour providers in managing security officers’ right to work, employment status, training and minimum pay. Approved companies working to this Code demonstrate their supply chains are taking active measures to design out rogue labour practices, and in turn any collateral risk to buyers.

Of course, demand for skilled staff can put upward pressure on pay levels. At the recent Thought Leadership Summit this topic was addressed by speaker Sebastian Bachelier from the Living Wage Foundation.

Asking the question ‘Why pay a real Living Wage: benefits and implications for the security sector’, he explained the voluntary real Living Wage (as distinct from the statutory Minimum Wage for under-25s and the National Living Wage for over-25s) is the only rate independently calculated annually, based on the real cost of living.

Mr Bachelier noted that the 6500 Living Wage Employers in the UK are helping to address the problem of low pay affecting more than 5 million workers in Britain, and nearly one third of women. NSI itself has joined the Living Wage movement and gained accreditation as a real Living Wage Employer to publicly demonstrate its support for the work of the Living Wage Foundation.

In his presentation to this year’s Thought Leadership Summit, Mr Bachelier added that the real Living Wage offers benefits to both employees and employers, as well as measurably boosting the economy.

For employees it translates into tangible advantages including higher esteem and self-confidence, health benefits and improved quality of life. For employers a recent Living Wage Foundation survey found 64% of businesses paying the real Living Wage say it has helped differentiate them from others in their industry, and 75% reported it has increased employee motivation and retention rates. 86% of those surveyed said the real Living Wage has improved the reputation of their business, while 93% say it has benefited their business overall.

Looking ahead to the intended new UK immigration system starting on 1st January 2021, the continuing roll-out of NSI’s Code of Practice for Labour Providers reinforces the merits of sound pay, skills, training and valid career paths in the security guarding sector. The Code will help ensure the security officers deployed are paid the appropriate rate, and security buyers ensure their approved service provider supply chain manages out rogue labour risk.