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Interviews

SIA on labour supply in night-time economy

Last month and this, has been busy, even chaotic, for parts of the economy – pubs (pictured) and clubs, festivals, hospitality – as the UK has re-opened properly for the first time since spring 2020. Labour supply has been an issue, including among door and related security services.

Steve McCormick, director of licensing and standards at the Security Industry Authority (SIA) commented to Professional Security today on industry calls and complaints – such as appeals for stewards to be allowed to do door work, to make up for a lack of door staff for hire; and industry grumbles expressed on social media and to the regulator about staff being ‘poached’ off doors and offered ‘cash in hand’.

As Steve began by saying, the whole economy is struggling to re-populate its workforce. A lot of the workforce – not only on doors pre-pandemic, but waiting tables and in kitchens and behind bars – have found other work, such as at Amazon warehouses. As Steve pointed out, if door staff work part-time and are on furlough from other, full-time jobs, they may still be reluctant to come off furlough, for financial reasons. But, workers on doors and in the night-time economy may have voted with their feet – instead of four and six-hour shifts, and the unsocial hours and risk of drunken violence, they may prefer the warehouse.

SIA has limits

Not for the first time, while Steve and the SIA are listening to what security industry bodies and approved contractors say to them, the regulator points to the limits of what Steve called its ‘area of influence’, what it can do legally. Such as allowing stewards to work doors – the SIA gives a ‘firm no’ to that, Steve said, on public safety grounds. At a still vulnerable time of social distancing and managing queues, and 18-year-olds going to festivals and pubs for the first time, now isn’t the time to allow untrained door staff, the SIA is arguing.

What of buyers

He acknowledged that stories of people working doors being approached with more money to work another door is a ‘real situation’. To that, Steve said there was a role to play for the end customer, the buyer of the security service; making sure that they are using a legitimate supplier. As for door firms not keeping to the tax rules, Steve pointed to the links the SIA has with HMRC; but the SIA is ‘not the police in terms of tax law’.

Where are badges?

The SIA can also point to its figures: more people hold a door badge than ever. The SIA month on month is seeing 10 per cent more applications for door licences than it would expect, at pre-pandemic levels. While those applicants may be doing non-pub work, such as at covid testing centres, and quarantine hotels (as featured in the August print edition of Professional Security magazine), the SIA cannot very well ask those applicants where they plan to work (if indeed they will use the badge at all, loss of badged people being an issue for the industry pre-covid). The problem, then, as the SIA put it, is not a lack of badged people; but of people to be deployed.

More from this interview in the September 2021 print edition of Professional Security magazine.


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