Expert urges the industry to guard its standard

Expert urges the industry to guard its standard

Expert urges the industry to guard its standard

A stark warning about concerns surrounding the competence of security guards has been issued by the UK’s largest High Court Enforcement agency, Shergroup.

Security Guards who continue to opt out of the European Working Time directive and work excessive hours are at risk of falling asleep on duty and not only jeopardising their security function but their own health and safety.

Shergroup, which owns and operates security firm Shercurity, is becoming increasingly concerned about standards of guards in the country and believes that despite licensing, and the Approved Contractor Scheme, many employees continue to sign up to a 70-hour or more working week.

This continues to significantly undermine the efforts of the industry to raise employment conditions particularly pay.

Now the head of Shercurity, Andrew Roberts, is warning other security firms in the industry that allowing guards to continuously opt out of the directive in order to clock up 72-hour working weeks for example, continues to damage the industry and the efforts of the Security Industry Authority and others to raise standards.

Shercurity standards for all its Security Officers are significantly higher than the norm: they have to be because, in their specialist role they are often called upon to deal with protesters and eco warriors.

It offers a specialist service to landlords and landowners, including post-eviction security and perimeter security and employs only ex military staff who provide much higher levels of training, ability and experience than typical entry Level 2 qualified guards.

Mr Roberts, who has been in the manned-guarding industry for almost 20 years, says it is the ‘grudge purchase’ clients who are largely responsible for encouraging the all-to familiar scenario of tired and low-quality staff working far too long to make up for inadequate pay rates.

He says: “Grudge purchasers usually buy on price alone and are not interested in the pay and conditions of their guards.”

“Unfortunately, even though some 75% of the charge is wages or wage-related, the ‘grudge purchaser’ concentrates only on the total cost which encourages a sale solely on price inevitably resulting in marginal wage rates.”

Now he is urging security companies to examine new ways of persuading customers of the benefits of better paid Security Officers who do not need to work more than 56 or 60 hours a week in order to achieve an acceptable weekly wage. “When low wages are offered guards will often want to work as many hours’ overtime as possible – 72 hours or more in order to boost their wage packet,” he says.

The Working Time Directive came into force in 1998 and allows for employees to work up to 48 hours a week unless they sign a declaration agreeing to opt out of the directive: “It means people can exploit the law,” says Mr Roberts.

Some security companies are known to offer jobs in the classifieds wanting security staff to work a 72-hour week, typically meaning a six-day working week. “This is unacceptable and undermines the efforts to improve the image of the industry and working conditions,” said Mr Roberts.

A very real risk is that guards fall asleep on the job when they should be monitoring cameras or patrolling the property they are being employed to safeguard.

“It really undermines the quality issue and directly impacts on the service offered. You then often get guards wanting only night shifts which can lead to a situation where they work during the day doing another job and come to work in the evening already tired,” he says.

It is common practice in the industry for an acceptable and typical working week to be around 56 to 60 hours – usually in 12 hour shifts.

“Any longer than that and you have tired guards who make sloppy guards and do nothing to enhance the standing of the industry in the eyes of the public,” adds Mr Roberts.

He also says the industry could do a lot more to sharpen up its image in order to stop the critics of the Security Industry Authority qualifications now needed by all security guards.

“From past experience, the criticism is well founded. I have seen licensed applicants for guarding positions whose ability to communicate is poor and their written work is well below a standard acceptable as competent to write reports and maintain logs.”

His message is there is one obvious way to raise the game of the industry: stop guards working over 60 hours a week. “Grudge purchasers and employers who exploit the opt-out of the Working Time Directive are discouraging higher standards and higher calibre employees.

“More than any other issue in the security industry this loophole severely restricts the ability of the industry and the SIA to raise standards.”

Claire Sandbrook, Chief Executive of Shergroup, says: “Cutting corners on directives is a recipe for disaster and security companies should be doing their level best to ensure compliance.”