The fallout for UK businesses after COVID-19

October 15, 2021


It has been an incredibly eventful start to the decade for all UK businesses across various industries and inevitably highlighted several major challenges in the security industry. Dan Hardy, Managing Director of Amberstone Security shares his business insights, recent learnings and effective solutions to move forward within these changing times – specifically how to improve the ability to operate your security company while mitigating any potential risk to your client base.

As a major supplier of intelligence-led security guard services, loss prevention services and a leading provider of electronic security solutions in Europe, Amberstone Security provides a tailored risk-based service for clients. They deliver the appropriate resource commensurate to each location profile, ensuring any spend is effective and the deployment is necessary – yet they quickly experienced the economic changes and associated risks as a result of the complications with the pandemic.

Figures in September 2021 reveal there are thousands fewer licensed security personnel within the industry than there were a year ago which presents a significant challenge when it comes to recruitment. A recent study further highlights this challenge as it indicates that the global Security Guarding market is projected to reach $220 billion by 2024. With an increase of burglaries, crime events and a higher-than-usual demand for security guards since businesses and hospitality events re-opened, having a reduced pool from which to select and recruit capable, quality officers is far from ideal – especially as national security vacancies are already rising.

When one also considers an increased rate of sickness (physical and mental illness) for front-line security personnel due to their exposure to COVID-19, this has further heightened the difficulty to fulfil coverage requirements for clients.  The emergence of COVID testing centres, often paying enhanced wages, is also a contributing factor that has led to even greater security personnel shortages. The centres have taken additional resources away from the traditional security provisions we provide to our clients.  

National challenges

The impact of recent events is being felt in other industries too. Well documented instances across the country show shortages of pick packers, lorry drivers and other gangmaster-related activities. This has meant businesses have not been able to fulfil requirements and deliver certain goods and services, for example:

• JD Wetherspoon has felt the effects after running out of beers, including Heineken, Carling and Coors.

• BP has experienced supply issues at several petrol stations.  

• McDonald’s could not offer milkshakes to its customers. 

• Nando’s had to close 45 restaurants after running out of chicken. 

• Iceland Foods had as many as 50 deliveries cancelled per day.

• Sweet manufacturer, Haribo experienced challenges in delivering sweets to UK shops. 

• A shortage of microchips has meant Toyota was forced to temporarily cut vehicle production by 40%.

• Abattoirs, butchers and meat processors are set to employ prisoners and ex-inmates to help plug labour shortages.

These issues have affected the security industry as well, however, it isn’t as well documented. The security industry has also suffered from orders not being delivered through supply chain issues. Manufacturers have not been able to fulfil demand due to the lack of materials caused by trade delays which hasn’t been helped by the government requirements for foreign travel as a result of COVID. This has therefore slowed international supply routes. 

Impacts from government decisions

The recent political developments have also led to difficulties for businesses striving to meet the demands of their clients. Bureaucracy has resulted in drivers struggling to travel in and out of the UK and the depreciation of the pound makes working in the UK less attractive. Tax legislation changes amidst the COVID pandemic (with the reform of IR35) has reduced the incentive for self-employed individuals and this has led to a number of these people leaving the industry. 

The government’s neglect to place positions like security officers or haulage drivers on the shortage occupations list hasn’t helped either. These roles do not qualify for a skills related visa and therefore exacerbate the current staff shortages in these crucial industries. 

Security’s conundrum

Shortages in trade, haulier, people and manufacturer supply, plus the impact of government decisions and greater international instability, multiplied by the increased security demand, equals a tricky equation for all industry businesses to try and work out. 

What does this mean and how can the risks be mitigated?  

From a technology standpoint, a shortage of parts and ancillaries is delaying fix rates and installation timelines. From a people standpoint, the industry is short of licensed operatives and we are all recruiting from the same pool with the highest pay rates being the obvious winner. 

The industry has historically been dependent on migrant operatives for many years and now there is an attempt to attract new people into the industry, from a UK generation who wouldn’t have previously considered security as a career. This recruitment process is competing with other industries which are not only managing COVID-related people losses and issues, but also attempting to attract talent which is not included in shortage occupation lists.  

Industry solutions

In response to these challenges, it is evident that companies are actively trying to incentivise, retain and recruit additional resources through various employee-led initiatives. Particularly, where driver shortages have affected the ability to deliver, supermarkets have introduced the following:

• Tesco offers drivers a £1,000 bonus.

• Aldi increased the salary for all drivers.

• Waitrose offers a £2.00 per hour increase, as well as a £1,000 joining bonus to recruits. 

Amberstone Security Solutions

Amberstone Security is leading by example in the security industry by implementing similar incentives that the supermarkets have launched to look after their employees. They aim to offer job security, competitive salaries and a favourable working environment, with the promise of:

• Work with clients to raise employee wages in regional areas where COVID test centres are present. The rate will fall in line with, or in some cases, exceed the rates being offered in these locations.

• Utilise recruitment employee bonuses for supporting recruitment, or as a welcome, attendance or performance-related bonus.

• Lobby for furtherance to the apprenticeship levy scheme enabling often lost funds to be used in differing ways to attract and train apprentices into the security industry.

• Cover the cost of the SIA licence and license linked training for the duration of employment.

• Attend careers events at colleges to encourage students studying public service courses to join the industry.

• Offer training to university students looking for part-time work and cover the cost for their SIA license and training.

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