Shahzad Ali, CEO of Get Licensed, highlights how the COVID pandemic has taken its toll on the mental health of security professionals – a sector that already struggles with the issue – and why support strategies should be put in place to support workers.
It’s no secret that workforces everywhere have felt the impact of COVID-19. Whether that be overwork in the medical sector, furlough in hospitality or job loss within downturned businesses.
There was little mention of the security industry in this time however, despite the industry suffering immensely, recording the highest number of deaths in any UK sector per 100,000, according to ONS reports from early on in the pandemic.
To make matters worse, globally, people were finding their mental health was suffering just as much as their physical.
According to a recent study, 40% of security workers already suffer from PTSD or another mental illness, so when coupled with the stresses of lockdown and a global pandemic, it is more important than ever that mental health support is prioritised within this sector.
How security work can take its toll
Verbal and physical abuse are but a few torments that security guards can experience any time they go to work. There is a stigma against ‘bouncers’ that exacerbates prejudice against this industry, with people often forgetting to consider the life-threatening experiences that these workers endure.
Most of us enjoy the comfort of the rules and regulations that protect us from bullying within the workplace, however this cannot be said of security workers. As protectors of the country, they come under immense abuse from the public. A recent survey showed that 64.6% of security workers were being abused on the job at least once a month, with figures only rising more in light of the pandemic.
For an industry that vows to protect the public, with workers risking their own safety and lives every day, there is little compensation for the work that they do. Work conditions can be poor, from low wages to a lack of job security.
Often security jobs run on zero-hour contracts, meaning there isn’t a guarantee of work and no consistency to income – this structure mostly benefits employers and is detrimental to workers.
All these elements may be contributing to the lack of supply of work in the industry, despite a rapidly increasing demand. With nightlife slowly re-entering our society, it begs the question of why there is a lack of security workers available that may prevent this transition. The mental health implications and poor work conditions are likely pushing people out of this line of work.
The pandemic’s strain on mental health
Every industry suffered at the hands of the pandemic, but with no job security and zero-hour contracts, many security workers will have suffered an unrivalled financial strain. Those that managed to keep work were the most vulnerable and busy they have perhaps ever been, with frustrations even leading to strikes during the first lockdown.
Studies have found a cyclical link between financial burden and various mental health issues. With the pandemic forcing workers to worry about their source of income, the detriment to mental health will have only increased.
Mental health worsened across the country through the coronavirus pandemic, with over 69% of adults saying they felt worried about the impact it was having on their lives. For those with pre-existing mental health issues, like the 40% of the security industry who suffer from symptoms of PTSD, this was an incredibly hard time.
READ: The importance of mental health for security personnel
As PTSD can be linked to violence and anger, this is a very dangerous quality for security workers to develop, hence the need for greater support. Violence is exactly what we need security staff to protect us from, so the damage to their mental health is a much greater problem than just personal.
The lack of protection for staff in this sector is what has inevitably forced people out of security work. With the combination of financial stress, worsening mental health issues or vulnerability in dangerous work spaces, it was inevitable many people had to move on.
Introducing a support strategy for struggling workers
In an industry filled with zero-hour contracts, it is hard to know where this line of support needs to come from. The problem starts with the entire dynamic of the security sector, with workers being underpaid and disregarded.
Corporations that employ security guards must start questioning how it is they treat them and where they would be without their service. The wages of these workers must be reconsidered, as the cost of protecting an establishment or person while risking one’s life cannot be deemed so low.
Rather than using zero-hour contracts, provide security workers with proper compensation and workers benefits. Research has shown that job security can improve mental health, so this change in employment will already begin to make workers feel more supported and secure.
Once workers are in a properly contracted employment, companies can begin to offer them the same opportunities as other staff. Counselling and mental health leave are just a few things that employees are entitled to within normal working structures.
Companies should also consider the benefits that mental support for workers can also give them. With mental health being the leading cause of sickness in the UK, this can cost companies over £1000 per employee a year.
For those that are in employment by security firms, systematic change is still needed – workers protection is a basic right. Get Licensed is in the midst of partnering with UK’s top security companies to provide jobs that have good working conditions and pay.
Connect with the security industry online 1-30 June
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