COVID-19 and the Close Protection Industry

COVID-19 and the Close Protection Industry

Advice and Support for Security Industry Professionals

When you are a Close Protection Operative (CPO), working in close proximity to your principal and CP team members is an occupational hazard. If you are doing your job correctly, social distancing is entirely out of the question. Maintaining ‘close’ contact with your principal is an essential part of the role.

You may well be one of the many Close Protection Operators finding themselves out of a job at this time. Work has dried up, and the general public has battened down the hatches to save lives by staying home. You may well be feeling sorry for yourself and wondering how and when you will next get paid. 

Well, guess what? You are not alone!

There are approximately 15,000 Close Protection SIA license holders in the UK. The vast majority of these are self-employed. Most are now in the same position. Terminated and cancelled contracts are commonplace. There is little hope of finding any work in the immediate future. 

Feast or Famine

If you have been in the industry for a while, you will already know how it works. January is usually quiet, with jobs starting to trickle in around February. Demand for close protection services usually starts to pick up during March. It then builds up to a hectic summer season where good operators are generally working ‘flat out’ with very little time off. Few of us are fortunate enough to have a full-time position or have the luxury of a retained post.

As professionals, we have all adapted to the ‘feast and famine’ nature of our industry.

We are currently experiencing a prolonged famine and, sadly, there is no immediate end in sight.

Resourcefulness and Resilience

The first thing to do is to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Recognise that the whole country is struggling. Covid-19 is an unprecedented national crisis affecting every one of us in the UK. As Professional Close Protection Operatives, your training teaches you to expect the unexpected. Your resourcefulness, resilience, and decision-making skills should serve you well. 

Good operatives are proactive and plan for every eventuality. You may not have been able to predict a global pandemic, but you should have squirrelled away enough money to see you through an illness or long-term injury. When you are working with your principals, you should always have a backup plan. The same is true in your professional life.

Keeping the Finances in Order: Get Help Where it is Available

You may have heard already about financial packages designed by the Government. The aim is to help small businesses and the self-employed to come through this crisis.

If you are self-employed and find that your income has dropped, you are able to claim Universal Credit. Universal Credit isn’t a tremendous amount of money. Claiming it is not easy, and there is an awful lot of form filling and evidence required. The bureaucracy can put many people off, believing it isn’t worth the hassle. We disagree. Claiming Universal Credit may entitle you to other benefits, so it is worth filing a claim. In some cases, for example, claimants can be exempt from council tax. 

If you are VAT-registered, you can take advantage of the VAT deferral scheme. You should note at this point that you will still need to pay it eventually. It does give you some breathing space meaning that you can spend any money you have set aside for tax should you need to. 

You may also be eligible for the Government’s Covid Self Employment Income Support Scheme. The scheme allows you to claim 80% of your average monthly income (up to a value of £2,500). HMRC will contact you directly about this as long as you fulfil the criteria set out by the scheme. 

Don’t Be a Job Snob!

These are desperate times, and you may find yourself in a dire situation. Now more than ever, a lot of people will be regretting turning their noses up at RST vacancies. If someone is willing to pay you to work, you shouldn’t turn them down from a misplaced sense of your importance. 

The reality is that most of those RST tasks are still running with operatives now sitting pretty. Some employers have ‘locked’ them in to reduce contamination. Others carry on as usual, with added procedures to minimise contamination. These individuals still earn a steady wage which is something to envy.

A word of warning, too. Be wary of unscrupulous security companies capitalising on the dire situation. They offer poor wages and take advantage of the needy. They are likely to be charging their clients a premium, but not passing this on to the guards working for them if even paying them at all. But that’s a whole other matter of ethics, and something to discuss in another article in due course.

Needs must. You need to keep your finances in-check, even if that means working in a minimum-wage retail security position. You are still working within the security sector. It is unlikely that any future employer is going to look down on you for filling in as a retail guard during the COVID-19 pandemic, quite the opposite. Retail is an essential service, and Key-Workers are regarded as heroes in the current crisis. Many times people have said in jest that stacking shelves or working in McDonald’s is better or better paid than security, well now is the time to swallow your pride.

Using Downtime for Upskilling – 5 Top Tips for Keeping yourself at the Top of your game

You may be one of the savvy operators that are financially sound right now. You may not have hit the panic button yet, so well done you. There are still many things that you can do right now to better your chance of employment once this is all over.

1. Continuing Professional Development

Take a look at your CV, does it need updating, refreshing, or reformatting? Consider sending it to a friend or family member for their opinion. Better yet, use a professional CV writer. Usually, this service comes with a professional cover letter or BIO, perhaps both. Do you have a BIO or cover letter ready to attach to your CV?

You should always remove sensitive personal details such as your home address from your CV. You should make sure that you include your contact details and SIA license number. Some employers prefer to see a headshot of you attached to the CV. Have two CVs prepared: one with your headshot and one without the picture. 

If you are sending a photograph, you should keep the headshot professional. You should dress in a suit, shirt, and tie. Whatever you do, don’t use a selfie of yourself on the beach or flexing in the gym!

Job vacancies may be sparse at the moment, but it may be worth sending a speculative application. An application sent now could place you at the front of the queue once this is all over. If you do apply for any jobs, make sure you meet the criteria, make sure you read and explain how you meet the job description. And follow all the instructions given to the absolute letter. 

2. Self-Promotion

Make a contact list of previous employers and clients and remind them that you are available. Keep emails short, polite and professional. Companies may be struggling in the same way as you are. You may not be the first to send them similar messages, so don’t expect a reply or job offer to magically materialise.

Update your LinkedIn profile. Does it represent you right now? Is it professional and accurate? Keep your LinkedIn account separate from your Facebook account. LinkedIn is a professional forum, so it requires a professional persona. Keep your private images and political opinions for your friends and family on Facebook.

Try and resist posting on social media groups about how bored you are or slating companies and job vacancies. Other operators and prospective employers can see your posts and they stay online long after you have forgotten about them. Aim not to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

3. Keep Physically and Mentally Fit

For a Close Protection Operative, keeping fit should be as routine as getting dressed in the morning.

The current legislation means that no gyms are open. You can still run, cycle, or walk. You do not need a gym to keep fit. Living in a small flat or a bedsit is no excuse either. Sit-ups, push-ups, and bodyweight squats need very little space and no equipment.

If your local park is too busy and it’s challenging to find your own space, then plan your day better. Try exercising earlier in the day or later in the evening to take advantage of quieter times. 

Your fitness is one of your tools of the trade; without it, you are useless. Once this pandemic is over, you have no excuse. You should be in the best possible physical shape. 

Training outside will make you feel happier and help you cope with the mental stresses of being on lockdown. Fresh air will clear your lungs, and you will have more energy and a sharper mind. You will be mentally and physically prepared for when the crisis is over.

4. Maintain a Routine

Time management is essential for getting through this lockdown period. Try and keep to a loose routine. Remember, your training tells you to avoid creating visual habits. A strict pattern of behaviour makes it easy for undesirables to potentially keep track of you. Practise what you preach.

If you become lazy, you will get stuck in a rut. The upshot is that when you are back at work, it will be tough to get motivated and drag yourself out of bed. Set your alarm if you need to. Set yourself a schedule for the day. Keep active and proactive and make the most of the time you have been gifted.

You may want to consider online distance learning or reading too. There are several security-related courses online. Learning another language could help you get more lucrative and highly-sought after international tasks. Educating your mind will stop you going stir-crazy, so try not to sit and watch TV all day or get lost in online gaming. Of course, it is ok to chill out, but you still need to prepare yourself for when that elusive phone call arrives.

5. Volunteer Work

Spending time volunteering to help your community is an excellent thing to do. It could also enhance your employability in the long run. Your expertise could be useful, particularly in the NHS. You can put your advanced driving skills to good work. Or you could use your practical first-aid and medical knowledge to relieve front line workers. Volunteering is good for the mind and soul, giving you a real sense of achievement. As a bonus, it would also look great on your CV!

Failing that, you could always join or re-join the Army or Reserves. Her Majesty’s Forces are currently recruiting and looking for people who are ready to ‘hit the ground running’.

On a final note, we would like everyone to remember that we are all human. We are all going through the same trauma, which is entirely out of anyone’s control. Remember, it is ok not to be ok. If you find yourself struggling emotionally, financially, or professionally, there are always people who can help. Speak to someone if you need advice and talk to others in the industry who may be facing the same difficulties as you are.

Close Protection Services

Westminster Security provide close protection services in London, throughout the UK, Europe and Worldwide.