New NSI Code of Practice by Richard Jenkins

TPSO magazine asked Richard Jenkins, Chief Executive of the National Security Inspectorate to explain the important benefits of a new Code of Practice covering labour provision of front line guarding staff, which addresses the risks buyers face buried in the supply chain for security services, and ensures professional security officers do not suffer potential worker exploitation….

New NSI Code of Practice

The scale of the Covid-19 pandemic, its economic ramifications and the impact on security is still unfolding. NSI joined other organisations shortly after lockdown in calling for specialist employees including security guards in approved security and fire safety companies to be classified as Key Workers, given their vital work in, amongst other areas, the security of empty or closed commercial, retail or office premises, and additional front of house security most apparent in retail environments.

Buyers of security guarding services are unwittingly placed at some potential risk from the security guarding sector’s widespread use of sub-contracted labour. This practice, common in the sector for flexing/upscaling staffing resources when required, enhances providers’ operational efficiency and ensures security standards are maintained when professionally managed. But when flawed it risks the emergence of rogue labour and poor employment practices.

The Covid-19 crisis has imposed new additional demands upon organisations that manage and monitor access to a wide variety of premises, with additional security officers now being deployed to maintain social distancing as well as traditional duties. This has made the flexing of resource in deployment of outsourced security staff more, not less, likely.

Instances of inadequate procedures in the deployment of sub-contracted labour pose a risk to the safety and security of the public, prejudice the integrity of the supply chain, and offer unwelcome scope for worker exploitation. For buyers of security services this in turn carries the potential for reputational damage – which in today’s social media-connected world, can go viral with immense adverse Brand impact.

Calling on uncontrolled labour providers to supply often short-notice security officers, whilst common practice, presents a risk to buyers and potentially undervalues some of those we now recognise as Key Workers. In the worst-case scenario, rogue labour could have devastating results and all parties to the contract might suffer from the attendant fallout. Managing the risk and helping ensure best practice prevails is clearly important.

Self-employed labour risks

One of the biggest challenges security companies face in retaining and winning new business is competition from others whose labour providers utilise a self-employed labour model. Buyers are often unaware of the risks they carry when appointed contractors are driven by cost to these providers. Why? NSI auditing experience encounters incidents of labour providers resorting to less than sound employment practices.

The risk to main contractors and buyers is severe: a lack of security screening, SIA licensing and right-to-work checks are typical examples where poor practice exists:  risk which both the main security contractor and the client unwittingly shoulder. Neither can be certain security labour provided on site at any one time is bona fide; does anybody really know? Are buyers aware that, unchecked, this practice can present a threat to both their assets and public safety? Just as importantly, what of the security officers? Why would they choose self-employment when clearly it can disadvantage them in terms of take home pay, sick pay, pension, holiday pay and National Insurance contributions?  Self-employment is generally not the free choice of the security officer: it is a condition often forced upon them in accepting work.

Tackling the issue

With so many interested parties involved, and the overarching safety of the public to consider, a workable and practical means of addressing the risk has been a priority.  That’s why NSI has taken the initiative through the development of a new Code of Practice, NCP 119, for the ‘Provision of Labour in the Security and Events Sector’. 

It covers all labour provision to companies operating in the regulated security and events sector. By definition, the term “labour provision” used in the NSI Code of Practice applies to activities which are described as bought-in-labour, licensed or unlicensed, as well as labour employed and/or supplied by a third party to temporarily supplement the contracting company’s own workforce.

Among the aims of this new Code is a solution to problems including an absence of adequate checks and monitoring of deployed security officer SIA licences, security screening to BS 7858, adherence to Working Time Regulations, the paying of minimum wage, and checks on right to work and employment status.

Following feedback received by NSI of poor practices potentially compromising industry credibility, in 2019 NSI also engaged with the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), a government body that works in partnership to protect vulnerable and exploited workers. Its teams investigate labour exploitation across all sectors in England and Wales, covering offences against the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004, the Employment Agency Act 1973, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

The GLAA has highlighted sectors vulnerable to labour exploitation as including those with sub-contracting arrangements, since they are harder to monitor. Last year the Authority’s Director of Strategy, Darryl Dixon, spoke to NSI approved companies about the challenges for the security sector in relation to exploitation and criminal activity and positive steps that can be taken with this awareness in mind.

How will the new Code work?

The new Code of Practice has been developed to enable those providing labour to security companies to demonstrate best practice by holding independent certification in the scope of ‘Provision of labour in the security and events sectors’, and so audited by NSI against the requirements of NCP 119.

Importantly, approval to the Code by all the supply chain partners involved demonstrates to buyers of services a supply chain commitment to meeting statutory and legislative requirements, as well as satisfying certain relevant environmental, social and governance criteria in the provision of services delivered. Companies procuring additional labour to support service delivery on their contracts can, in future, use approval to this Code of Practice as a specified requirement in their supply chain processes to provide an assurance that their provider has been audited against the requirements of NCP 119.

NSI began offering approval to the Code on 1st April this year and as a new mandatory requirement NSI Gold and Silver approved companies are required to ensure that by 31st December 2021 all labour providers in their supply chain are also approved. The intention is to demonstrate to buyers that professional standards and staff welfare are maintained, as verified by regular ongoing independent audit and the holding of a Certificate of Approval. In this way, the risks that currently pervade the security guarding and events management sectors with respect to labour provision can be mitigated, protecting the buyer, main contractor, key workers in the sector and the general public they serve. 

Delving into the details

NCP 119’s requirements include measures related to best practice in terms of organisational structure, finances, payroll, insurance and premises. They also include personnel, sale of services, operations and documentation, and record-keeping.  The personnel requirements cover recruitment, training, employee terms and conditions, and uniforms. 

The sale of service requirements include the transparency of contractual documentation as well as the contract terms themselves, whilst operational issues cover the deployment and management of staff, suppliers and confidentiality.

The personnel requirements also include governance, record keeping and competence in recruitment and selection, terms and conditions for employees, the right to work and security screening.  

Training is a significant requirement of the Code for organisations employing security officers and event management operatives.  The Code requires organisations to have clearly defined and documented training policies, providing induction training to all staff in matters related to employment and the organisation’s procedures, and training being demonstrably completed before each employee is deployed to an assignment.

Non-compliance with the Code would be viewed as the absence of adequate checks and monitoring of deployed security guard SIA licences, security screening to BS 7858, adherence to Working Time Regulations, the paying of minimum wage and checks on right to work and employment status.

Conclusion

Covid-19 has exposed supply chain weakness in many sectors. In the security guarding services sector supply chain partners’ future mandatory approval to this Code of Practice will ensure its integrity and the ability of labour providers to meet statutory and legislative requirements, staff wellbeing and relevant environmental, social and governance criteria – reinforcing best practice for the benefit of all parties.

Importantly, the interests of our professional security officers will also be better served through this measure. The Covid-19 pandemic is proving a radical and unpredictable force upon societies across the globe. In this context this Code may seem to pale in the context of the current global crisis. Yet, the rogue labour risk is real and this forward thinking Code of Practice puts long overdue protection in place for buyers of services and deployed security officers alike.

As designated Key Workers, security officers helping protect us all deserve, in turn,  operational employment terms and conditions that are fit for purpose.

Organisations wishing to find out more about and apply for approval to the new Code of Practice may contact the NSI Applications team at applications@nsi.org.uk

Richard Jenkins

Richard Jenkins became CEO of the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) in 2014. With its roots stemming from the early 1970s, NSI celebrated 20 years of independence from the Loss Prevention Council in 2018. As the UK’s leading security sector specialist Certification Body with reach in all corners of the UK, NSI was one of the first organisations to become an assessing body for the Security Industry Authority’s Approved Contractor Scheme. Today we work with elite companies operating within the Guarding Services sector who wish to differentiate themselves as being amongst the best providers of private security services in the United Kingdom. Richard’s experience in the private sector, within the UK and EMEA, spans sales, retail and wholesale distribution, manufacturing, international logistics and quality systems, in blue chip organisations such as IKEA, Chubb, Steelcase and Caterpillar. Richard has brought to NSI a strong added value and service ethos, a determination to deliver transparency, and clarity in promoting and supporting the high standards delivered by approved companies in the sector

NSI website: www.nsi.org.uk