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22 February 2010

One in seven staff in small firms could not get to work due to heavy snow falls this winter

Reference number: PR/2010/06

FSB News Release

PR 2010 06

One in seven staff in small firms could not get to work due to heavy snow falls this winter, latest figures show

New figures published from the most definitive survey of the small business sector

One in seven members of staff failed to make it into work during the heavy snow and severe weather earlier this year, results from the FSB-ICM ‘Voice of Small Business'' survey panel show.

Although half (51%) of small firms surveyed said they were prepared for severe weather disruption, staff were unable to get to work because of transport disruptions (29%) and school closures (11%) which meant that parents had to stay at home to look after their children. On average, a small business with seven members of staff saw one employee absent on at least one occasion – that is 15 per cent of staff from responding businesses unable to make it into work for at least a day because of snow-bound roads and closed schools.

Four in ten (40%) said the snow-covered roads led to a disruption of business services and goods; three in ten (29%) saw a loss of growth and demand, 18 per cent lost access to business premises and 11 per cent had to close completely.

Small businesses also showed resilience and resourcefulness, putting plans in place to deal with the snow fall: four in ten (42%) put in place policies for remote working, three in ten (30%) offered flexible working hours and 17 per cent bought their own supply of grit and salt.

The FSB wants to put a stop to the country grinding to a halt because of increasingly erratic weather conditions and is calling for a national civil contingencies conference to bring together councils, regional development agencies, emergency services, school and teacher representatives, as well as business and relevant Government department representatives to find ways to keep Britain moving.

The FSB also recommends:

- The Government produces mandatory guidance for local authorities, including salt level recommendations; and further increases its own private salt levels to supplement shortfalls where necessary;
- The Department for Children, Schools and Families, National Association of Head Teachers and Association of the Directors of Children''s Services work together to produce better guidance and criteria on closing schools, to prevent closures where possible; and
- The Government''s Civil Contingency Secretariat further supports, promotes and advises small firms on their business continuity planning, using tailored guidance such as that produced by the FSB.

John Wright, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said:

"Small businesses were particularly hard-hit during the heavy snow fall earlier this year: staff were unable to make it into work because of snow-bound roads and closed schools which meant that parents had to stay at home to look after their children. Small firms have shown that they are resilient and resourceful by putting plans in place and offering flexible working hours and remote working, but we need to be better prepared with more salt for roads to prevent staff from missing days of work and bringing the country to a standstill.

"The FSB believes that local authorities have not learnt from last year''s bad weather quickly enough, and we are calling for a national civil contingencies conference, bringing together all the relevant parties, to prevent the UK from coming to a complete standstill and find ways to keep Britain moving."

ENDS