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Environmental settings

Councils typically source security services for the following types of work:

  • static guarding of infrastructure
  • CCTV monitoring
  • remote monitoring of infrastructure and events.

Geographical differences

The Inquiry found security employees in metropolitan councils generally perform more remote monitoring of infrastructure and CCTV and carpark monitoring than event work. Contracts with metropolitan Councils tend to be for longer durations, around two to three years. In regional areas, security monitoring involves smaller distances, and work tends to be more sporadic in nature with event work or shorter contract durations.

It is often easier to move from one security business to another within a metropolitan area, whereas in regional areas there are less businesses operating. This can create a situation where employees are potentially more reluctant to voice concerns about their working entitlements, as there may not be many other work opportunities, or they may get a reputation for being a difficult staff member within the industry.

Security industry culture

Security is an industry requiring certifications, from the Certificate II to the Certificate IV level, for registration as a security worker. No specialist skills are required, with registration in all states mainly focusing on potential criminal records. Many security business owners started as security workers themselves and then progressed to starting their own businesses. As a result, there is a lack of awareness and education regarding employer obligations and employee entitlements, with businesses instead doing things “the way they were done” when the business owner used to do similar work for someone else.

There are also many small businesses competing for contracts against both small and large businesses, and businesses may cut their profit margin to win a contract.

Case study – security employee becomes business owner

A business owner audited during this Inquiry, ‘Thomas’, advised the FWO that he was a security guard for around 10 years, and then decided to run his own company to spend more time with his family. However, he advised he has instead found that he spends even less time with his family as a business owner, as he has to operate close to his profit line and do more of the work himself. He is also based in a regional area which makes it harder to attract employees and to win contracts. Thomas indicated to the FWO that he finds himself both time and cash poor in running his business, so even though he wants to do the right thing by his staff, he doesn’t have time to fully educate himself across all relevant legislation.

Security licencing is not standard throughout Australia, and the requirements to hold a licence can vary considerably. In NSW, VIC and WA the police are responsible for licencing, while in other states it is the responsibility of various state government departments. QLD requires all security firms to be a member of an approved association to hold a licence; VIC requires either association membership or a Certificate IV in Security & Risk Management, while no other states appear to have a requirement relating to association membership.

Hours and physicality of work

The Inquiry observed that security employees tend to work late at night, particularly on weekends. They are more likely to be classified as ‘shift workers’, with disrupted sleep patterns that can have an impact on their health. The work is highly physical, with static guards required to be on their feet the majority of the time. Security guards are also more likely to encounter higher risks to their safety than in other industries, due in part to the physicality of the work, as well as their interactions with members of the public who may be intoxicated, highly emotional, or irrational1.

The relevant industry bodies involved in this Inquiry

ASIAL is a registered organisation, and they indicate on their website that their members “…account for approximately 85 per cent of the Australian security industry.”2 The FWO has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ASIAL which provides a framework for both parties to enhance existing relationships and work together to improve compliance with Commonwealth workplace laws through the exchange of accessible, reliable and credible information to workplace participants. In 2013, ASIAL raised concerns with the FWO following member feedback about the lack of transparency and fairness in the awarding of local government tenders to private security companies, often at the lowest price3.

United Voice is a registered organisation representing over 120 000 workers across a wide range of industries including security, as well as hospitality, health and aged care, manufacturing, mining and miscellaneous, property services and children’s services4.

  1. Article detailing one of the risks faced in the workplace by security guards external-icon.png
  2. Australia Security Industry Association Limited, About us Platform external-icon.png , accessed 4 May 2016
  3. Security Insider Magazine external-icon.png , August 2014
  4. There are two additional employer associations relevant to this industry, the Building Services Contractors Association of Australia (BSCAA) and the Security Providers Association of Australia Limited (SPAAL). BSCAA is Australia’s peak industry representative body for the building services industry, with members including contractors for cleaning, security, facilities management and ground maintenance. SPAAL is an approved national industry association. Membership is open to all security providers in Australia. SPAAL is a member of the Construction and Property Services Industry Skills Council, in addition to Standards Australia.