Severe shortage of club security staff, warns Get Licensed

Covid-19 has turned the once booming nightlife industry upside down.

Shahzad Ali is CEO of Get Licensed
Shahzad Ali is CEO of Get Licensed

After shutting their doors for the final time in March 2020, almost 10,000 UK nightlife establishments have not survived the last year.

And while those still standing prepared to finally return to normal ahead of June 21, the rise of the Delta Variant has set them back once again.

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So it comes as no surprise that 85 per cent of the industry’s staff are considering leaving following a tough year, made worse by the severe shortage of security guards, vital for the nightlife industry.

Security workers are fundamental to the operation of UK nightlife. Their job as trained, SIA-approved “door supervisors” is to create a secure, safe environment for the public.

Clubs and bars can be dangerous places, as drinking culture and potentially violent behaviour often goes hand in hand with these establishments.

Alcohol can alter a person’s behaviour, affecting each individual differently. In some of the worst cases, individuals completely lose their inhibitions and become aggressive when under the influence.

Although security workers are employed to ensure the safety of customers, they can become targets for drunken abuse from attendees of the establishments they are employed to protect.

Whether this be as they decline entrance on the door or when they are managing unruly situations within their place of employment, door supervisors are subjected to an array of both verbal and physical assault.

Not only do bouncers guard their establishment, but they also oversee the streets around them. As these establishments operate in the dead of night, this is the optimum time for criminal activity – particularly violent crimes like assault.

According to reports, new door supervisor SIA licence applications in the past 12 months are significantly down on previous years. At the hands of the pandemic, it is no surprise workers within the nightlife industry have had to search for other work.

Research has shown that around 51 per cent of nightclub staff had been made redundant as a result of the industry closing. With many of the door supervisors employed by clubs and bars working on a zero-hour contract, therefore not entitled to furlough, the problem is exacerbated even further.

There is little incentive to return, furlough or not. Wages are low for bouncers in this industry, and perks are generally non-existent, due to the type of contracting and many employers outsourcing their workers.

In addition to the financial strain, many security guards who have been forced into other jobs will be reluctant to return to the abusive treatment they endure in the nightlife industry. There is little protection for security staff, and with the health risks of the pandemic, change is becoming more crucial.

Recently, the SIA made first aid training a legal requirement, along with other compulsory courses to qualify to be a door supervisor. Although encouraging extra training is positive, these courses are expensive, and within a low-wage industry, it is near impossible for some. This is a potentially damaging response to an already depleting workforce.

It is the job of the establishments of employment, training forces, and regulators to ensure the return of security workers to this sector. The work must be more incentivised to balance out the rising risks and costs of the industry.

Firstly, eliminate zero-hour contracts where possible as they actively discourage loyalty to the industry and undervalue the work of trained professionals. A change in contracting will immediately improve morale and working conditions while ensuring the cost of training is worthwhile.

In such a physically and emotionally demanding line of work, basic protection and support are seriously lacking.