Listening to a radio interview with a front-line cleaning operative recently, I was struck by the way in which she was expected to be on the front-line and keep her employer’s customers safe, but wasn’t being offered the same support herself.
In this instance, the worker became ill with Covid but her unnamed employer refused to let her take paid time off until she received a positive test result – something that should surely be a cause of shame for our sector.
As a Living Wage employer, we have worked hard throughout the pandemic to support our security officers on the front line. From shielding our most vulnerable people, changing shift patterns to enhance safety to improving the welfare of others through the new wellbeing section of our colleague portal, we have tried to ensure that even when under pressure, our security officers always feel safe, supported and appreciated.
Which is why it is frustrating that having kept people safe and secure, often at risk to themselves, our front-line workers are not also near the front of the queue to receive the vaccine. The current programme from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) reports that while health and social care workers are prioritised, as you might expect, front-line support staff, such as cleaning operatives and security officers, in hospitals and the wider community are not prioritised.
We firmly believe that security officers, having served UK Plc throughout the last 11 months while many people worked from the safety of their own homes, should be prioritised in receiving the vaccine. The research we carried out in the first lockdown revealed that security officers are one of the most at-risk occupations thanks to a combination of their age, sex, ethnicity, geography and the nature of their work. And that has only got worse. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that security officer deaths are now 100.7 per 100,000 (up from 45.7 per 100,000 in May 2020). There’s never been a more urgent call for security companies and the security industry to do more, and fast.
After all, as organisations begin to gear up for the return to the office, security officers are the ones who will be welcoming people back to their workplaces, demonstrating the new social distancing measures and ensuring everyone feels safe. They need to do that safe in the knowledge that they are protected through the vaccine.