Many UK businesses are unprepared to meet incoming anti-terrorism laws

Published on Thu, 11/04/2024 - 12:56

New terrorism preparedness legislation is expected to become UK law later this year, but many businesses are significantly unprepared for the measures, according to Gallagher's latest research.

Key takeaways:

  • The upcoming 'Martyn's Law' legislation, scheduled to take effect later this year, will have a significant impact on thousands of UK businesses.
  • Only slightly more than half (56%) of the affected firms are currently aware of this law, yet non-compliance could result in fines of up to £18 million or 5% of their global revenue.
  • Just a quarter (23%) of firms are fully confident that they will be able to fulfil Martyn’s Law's requirements when it comes into force.
  • A very small minority (16%) of organisations say they are fully confident that they currently have the safety procedures being recommended in place now, in advance of the incoming law.
  • The threat of terrorism in the UK is currently rated ‘substantial’, meaning an attack is likely.

New terrorism preparedness legislation is expected to become UK law later this year, but many businesses are significantly unprepared for the measures, according to Gallagher's latest research.

Martyn's Law aims to enhance the protection of publicly accessible locations from terrorism in response to increasing attacks in the UK. Since 2017, there have been 14 terrorist attacks; while the Manchester Arena bombing was a notable legislative catalyst, attacks on London Bridge, Westminster Bridge and Borough Market have also helped to shape Martyn’s Law[1]. Beyond that, there have been 39 late-stage attacks that the security services have intercepted within the same time period[2].

Originally called Protect Duty, Martyn’s Law is named after Martyn Hett, who was killed alongside 21 others in the Manchester Arena attack nearly seven years ago. Following this act of terrorism, the UK Government has worked closely with security partners, business and victims’ groups, including Martyn’s mother, Figen Murray OBE and the Martyn’s Law Campaign Team, and Survivors Against Terror to understand what happened.

The initial enquiry into the attack drew three fundamental conclusions central to the consequent recommendations: an overall complacency towards terrorism risk; staff were not patrolling the interior area frequently; and security and non-security staff were not adequately trained.

New requirements

Martyn’s Law will require businesses to consider the types of attacks that could occur at their premises and take action to help reduce potential harm to the public. Businesses required to comply with the law include any venue with a capacity of 100 and above, such as pubs, restaurants, sports stadiums, cinemas, theatres and museums. Additionally, the law will apply to organisers of public events where there will be over 100 people, including festivals, charity fundraising events, such as runs or bike rides, and school fetes.

However, Gallagher’s research found just 23% of firms surveyed are fully confident that they will be able to meet the requirements of the incoming law.

Once Martyn’s Law comes into effect, businesses with a capacity of over 100 will be required to introduce a set of measures to mitigate threats, such as deploying security procedures and training staff.  Businesses with a capacity of over 800 people will be required to regularly undertake risk assessments, develop detailed incident response plans and implement physical security measures such as CCTV, intruder alarms and secure fencing.

Although the final detail is still being worked through, businesses will likely be required to provide specialist training to staff so that they know how to respond in the event of a terrorist incident and lead customers to safety. Just one in three (28%) businesses currently provide their staff with this type of training, with the majority (55%) of venue managers saying they plan to introduce it over the next 12 months.

Larger operators will likely be required to appoint dedicated staff to oversee risk assessments and implement security measures. Currently, just over a third (36%) of hospitality operators have a dedicated team or person in charge of assessing terrorism risks, with four in ten (39%) planning to recruit in the next year and a concerning quarter (25%) not planning to make an appointment, despite the incoming law.


A majority of businesses surveyed by Gallagher are at risk of non-compliance once the law is passed, with less than half (43%) saying that they understand enhanced security measures to be a requirement under the new law.

Dominic Roe, managing director and hospitality sector specialist at Gallagher, says: “Martyn’s Law will mean businesses will have substantial responsibility for protecting public safety, and it is therefore rather concerning to see that such a low number of impacted firms are fully confident in their ability to meet these requirements when they are expected to become law this year.

“This data clearly suggests that hospitality operators could fall significantly short of some of the expected requirements, with few firms having well-shaped plans in place to meet the requirements.

Failure to comply could have severe financial consequences, as the UK Government is proposing potential fines of up to £18 million or 5% of an operator’s worldwide revenue, as well as sanctions and restriction notices. With just a quarter (25%) of firms strongly agreeing that the UK Government has been clear on what the requirements of Martyn’s Law will be, businesses could face financial loss due to a lack of clarity around what is expected of them.

Seeking support

Less than half (44%) of businesses have enlisted external support with assessing public safety risks related to terrorism, the research revealed, despite this requiring specialist knowledge and skills. This is probable to be a particular problem with smaller venues, which are less likely to have the in-house capabilities necessary to prepare and protect against terrorism threats. When asked what security measures they already had in place, 49% of venues have floor plans showing emergency exit routes, 44% have incident response plans should an attack happen and just over half (55%) have security alarms.

Dominic advises: “Given the specialist nature of understanding what needs to be implemented, I would urge firms to consider working with a security and risk management specialist, like Gallagher, which can help interpret what the law will mean for each individual venue and ensure that businesses are compliant.

“We are already working with thousands of businesses in the UK’s hospitality sector by helping them manage the risks they face and protect their businesses and we can help firms prepare for Martyn’s Law by assessing their level of risk and how they can keep their businesses, staff and customers safe.”

An online survey commissioned by Gallagher was conducted by Coleman Parkes between 27 November and 6 December 2023 with a sample of 300 UK senior managers / owners of hospitality businesses from companies which will been impacted by the legislation. Survey consisted of 11 questions covering awareness and preparedness. Coleman Parkes is a member of the Market Research Society (MRS).