23 February 2024

Are Door Staff a Legal Requirement? Rules and Regulations

If you run a licensed venue, one of the most important things you need to get right is the quality of your SIA-registered door staff. They are your first line of defence to ensure you keep your venue safe, open, legal and welcoming.

They help to prevent violence which could put off potential visitors. They also make sure you follow all the relevant rules and regulations that enable you to operate within the confines of the law. Without door staff, it’s possible that you might lose your licence to sell alcohol.

Failure to follow the rules can lead to fines, damage your venue’s reputation, loss of licence and restrictions on your licence that make it more difficult to operate. Hiring qualified door staff is one of the easiest ways to ensure you remain compliant.

However, it isn’t only your door staff that need to be aware of the rules and regulations. Staff working behind the bar also need to be aware of what they can and cannot do. In this article, we will explore the role of the door supervisor, how they are trained to keep venues safe and in line with security regulations, and how you can make sure you stay on the right side of the law.

History of door staff legislation

History of door staff legislation

For over 20 years now, it has been a legal requirement for all door supervisors (also known as door staff, bouncers and doormen) to be certified by the Security Industry Association (SIA) as a consequence of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 and the Licensing Act 2003. In 2010, additional elements relating to physical intervention (what you can and cannot do in this regard) were added to the training requirement for all door staff.

This included provisions to help door staff deal with underage drinkers between the ages of 14 and 18. There were also new requirements for door staff to be trained to be aware of potential terrorist activities. 

Training is updated all the time to respond to the threats that door staff face. Door staff need to undergo top up training every three years to ensure they are up to date with the latest legislation and guidelines. 

Which venues need to hire door staff?

While it is not necessarily a legal requirement to have door staff at your licensed venue, there are certain legal obligations you are required to follow that will be easier to achieve if you have the assistance of trained door supervisors.

Licenced venues are required to check identification to ensure they do not serve underage patrons. They also have to make sure that underage patrons do not have access to their venues after a certain time. 

Door staff are also essential for enforcing dress codes and checking tickets for events. They will also be helpful in ensuring your venue isn’t above capacity by counting the number of people who enter and leave.

Licenced venues also have a responsibility to ensure patrons are safe from violence and that no one in the venue is carrying an offensive weapon. They are also required to ensure patrons leaving a venue are not a nuisance or danger to those in the surrounding areas.

Small pubs that don’t attract a rowdy crowd at nighttime might not need to bother with door staff, but they will need to make sure that their bar staff are checking ID. But rowdier pubs and nightclubs will need to hire door staff to help them to stay on top of the rules and regulations.

Checking SIA registration

Checking SIA registration

If you decide you need to hire door staff, you will have to make sure they are registered with the SIA. This is the industry regulator for security professionals. This is to ensure that your door staff have the relevant training and knowledge to be able to carry out their job in line with the law.

The training typically takes around six days, so you can be confident your door staff have undergone rigorous training to be able to protect your venue. Once the training is complete, they will also need to pass an assessment to ensure they have understood how to apply their training to real-life situations.

They will also need a first aid qualification too. The minimum requirement is Emergency First Aid at Work, which is a one day course costing about £80, although it is often rolled up into the cost of an overall Door Supervisor course by training providers and added on as an extra day.

With their training and certification complete, they can then apply to the SIA to receive their licence. This will give them a photocard licence (also known as “the badge”) which they are legally required to wear on their person while carrying out their role.

Before the SIA grants a licence, they will carry out extensive background checks on the individual to ensure they are fit to carry out their role. These checks will cover things like criminal record and mental health.

There are certain things that will prevent an individual from being able to work as a door supervisor. This includes a background of convictions for violent offences or drug use. Those who have been committed to a mental health facility will need proof that they are following treatment.

If all of the background checks are satisfactory, the individual will be granted an accredited photocard licence certificate. You can request to see this licence before they start working and you can also check their licence number via the SIA website. 

Who needs a non-frontline licence?

Who needs a non-frontline licence?

If you choose to hire your own door staff instead of working with an agency, someone on the premises will need a non-frontline licence. The requirements for this are much less stringent and you simply need to request a licence in order to be able to hire your own door staff.

If you hire door staff through an agency, then you do not need to have a non-front-line licence. However, it’s important to remember that the venue owner is the one responsible for ensuring all of their door staff are registered with the SIA. Even if you work with an agency, you still have a personal responsibility to ensure that your door staff are SIA certified.

Things can get complicated when a non-frontline licence holder gets involved with the security of a venue. For example, imagine a situation where you are the owner of a venue and you hire your own door staff. You also work behind the bar and are the non-frontline licence holder for the venue. 

So far, everything is above board and you are doing everything correctly. Things can become more complex if you then play a role in checking IDs at the bar and then requesting that individuals be removed by the door staff if they are being unruly. 

If the non-frontline licence holder were to assist in removing someone from the venue, this would be against the law. They would need to have their own SIA training and licence to be able to forcibly remove a patron from the venue. 

What can bouncers and door supervisors do?

What can bouncers and door supervisors do?

During the SIA certification process for door supervisors and bouncers, individuals will have extensive training to determine what they can do in their role. Bouncers will often have to make spur-of-the-moment decisions about how to act, so it’s vital they have a clear understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable.

These are some of the tasks that a bouncer can carry out in their role:

  • Checking patrons for proof of ID. If they believe that the ID they have been presented with is counterfeit or altered in any way, they are allowed to confiscate the ID.
  • Issue verbal warnings asking an individual to leave the premises for any reason.
  • Protect bystanders from confrontation or violence.
  • Break up fights they are not involved with.
  • Respond with equal and reasonable force if someone attacks them.
  • Contact the local police.
  • Refuse entry to the venue for anyone who fails to follow the policies of the venue, acts disorderly or is intoxicated, or is acting argumentatively or aggressively. 
  • They have the legal power to confiscate unauthorised and prohibited items found during a search that the individual has volunteered to take part in.
  • Bouncers can search individuals prior to entering the venue to check for weapons or drugs. However, they cannot enforce this if the individual does not consent. In this instance, the individual will always have the choice to walk away and not enter the venue. 
  • Bouncers can remove someone from the venue by force if necessary, but they are trained to use verbal communication to request that the person leave of their own accord. If the person refuses or becomes violent, the bouncer can take reasonable and necessary steps to remove the individual from the venue.

What can bouncers and door supervisors not do?

What can bouncers and door supervisors not do?

Now we know what tasks a bouncer is expected to carry out, let’s look at some things they cannot do.

  • A bouncer cannot insist on a search if the person does not consent. The patron is always free to walk away and not enter the venue if they do not agree to the search,
  • Bouncers cannot carry out strip searches under any circumstances – even with a person’s consent. They can only be carried out by the police, prison services and customs officers.
  • Bouncers are not permitted to use unnecessary force. For example, if someone is unruly and has been asked to leave, they cannot punch or kick them as this would amount to excessive force.
  • Bouncers cannot detain individuals for any reason. If they are waiting for the police to arrive and take over, they will be trained to use verbal reasoning to get the individual to remain in place. If a crime has been committed, they can perform a citizen’s arrest like any other private individual. 

In general, bouncers are entitled to protect themselves using reasonable and necessary force if they are attacked, or if they need to protect an innocent bystander. In this instance, they are not necessarily protected by their role as a bouncer but are simply acting as private citizens. They would be unlikely to face legal action if they are acting in self-defence.

Door supervisor training places emphasis on using communication skills to diffuse situations and use physicality as a last resort. They are specially trained to conduct themselves in a way that will limit their personal liability.

What happens if your door staff aren’t qualified?

If you hire door staff who are not SIA registered, you could face a fine of up to £5,000 and up to six months in prison. It is the venue owners’ responsibility to ensure the staff they hire are properly trained and qualified to carry out the work. It is a criminal offence under the PSI Act 2001 for door staff to work without the proper training and qualifications. Using a professional security marketplace like Surely can massively reduce the risk.

As a venue owner, the responsibility for confirming the SIA status of your door staff stops with you. Even if you work with an agency, it’s still a good idea to have a system in place for confirming that your staff have the correct training and qualifications in place. It’s also a good idea to confirm when their training took place and when their licence runs out.

Closing thoughts

While there may be no legal obligation to hire door staff, depending upon the decisions of the local licensing officer, it’s a good idea to use skilled and trained security operative professionals to ensure you remain compliant with your obligations both ethically and legally. Any situation where you are selling alcohol to the public could result in unruly behaviour, but qualified door staff will help to keep your venue or event compliant.

Whether you choose to hire door staff through an agency or direct hire, the venue owner is responsible for ensuring they are SIA-certified. Failure to follow these rules could significantly harm your business and make it difficult to continue operating. Repeated failures to protect your customers could lead to your licence to sell alcohol being revoked or placed under additional restrictions. Qualified door staff offer the simplest way to avoid this.