I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.
The level of wage rates in the Manned Guarding sector has been a significant cause of concern for many years. The advent of TUPE has prevented wages going backwards at a contract change but it has done nothing to help improve many wage rates.
It is not uncommon in the South East to see many examples of customers insisting on wage levels of £10.00 per hour plus. However we still see far more examples of security officers receiving the National Minimum Wage (NMW), especially the further North you travel in the country. When bidding for a contract, to comply with TUPE you have to maintain the wage levels currently paid, even if it is at NMW level.
It is a sad fact, but true, and it is not helping our cause to improve the image of the security industry. Ultimately wage rates are driven by what the customer is willing to pay, either directly or indirectly.
Over recent years, greater attention has been paid to the Living Wage, a campaign that was launched by members of London Citizens in 2001. The founders were parents in the east end of London, who wanted to remain in work, but found that despite working two or more National Minimum Wage jobs they were struggling to make ends meet, and were left with no time for family and community life.
The current Living Wage is 21 per cent higher than the National Minimum Wage at £7.85 an hour and this rises to £9.15 an hour in London. With a great deal of publicity being given to it, including endorsements from high profile figures such as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, it’s an idea that is growing in popularity. So much so that during 2014 the number of accredited Living Wage employers more than doubled, with over 1,000 employers across the UK having now signed up.
As a consequence we are starting to see more and more customers looking at ways to pay the Living Wage and improve the incomes of their manned guarding personnel. Companies are increasingly viewing their participation in the Living Wage as a ‘badge of honour’ and the campaign has, very cleverly in my opinion, drawn on their desire to demonstrate high levels of corporate social responsibility (CSR). They aren’t always doing it for purely altruistic reasons either – they realise that there are negative connotations in paying the National Minimum Wage, especially if profits are high. This is particularly the case in industries like the financial sector, which has some very high earners. How would the public feel if these companies were paying people National Minimum Wage to protect their people and property, while giving other personnel hundreds of thousands of pounds in bonuses?
Increased staff motivation and retention rates, reduced absenteeism and recruitment costs are common benefits reported following implementation of the Living Wage. These are all issues that directly affect the security industry and we all need to look at the long-term benefits of buying into this idea.
Sceptics might suggest that moving to the Living Wage from the National Minimum Wage simply means paying the same people more money for doing the same job. Although in the short term that’s perfectly true, it would also mean that those same people take greater pride in their work, feel more valued, are better engaged and are more committed to their roles. For employers, it means less staff churn and the ability to make a more worthwhile investment in training, as people are less likely to leave the company.
Looking longer-term, better pay also means that the industry becomes more attractive as a career and higher calibre people will want to join our ranks. Increasing the professionalism of the industry has been a focus of mine for some time and I think that this would be a great way to help achieve this objective. Ultimately, the Living Wage makes sense whichever way you look at it.