Fears of big freeze grow but many have no continuity plan

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MORE than half of businesses in Yorkshire and The Humber are worried about the effects of more arctic weather this winter, according to the Close Business Barometer, a survey of SMEs across the UK.

The Close Business Barometer also found that more than a quarter don’t have a business continuity plan in place to deal with consequences of the weather such as staff absenteeism and power failures.

The British Chambers of Commerce estimated that last year the economy lost £1.2bn a day due to the cold snap.

Ian Steward, local head of Close Invoice Finance, which independently commissioned the survey, said: “All too often people think about massive disasters when they talk about business continuity but in reality it’s the more mundane factors – like bad weather – that can impact us most of all.

“If businesses aren’t prepared for the worst, it can have a serious effect on cash flow which everyone knows is the lifeblood of all business. Prevention really is better than cure and I would urge SME owners who aren’t already prepared to act now, checking that premises are winter-proof, insurance is up to date and flexible working plans are in place in case staff can’t make it to work.”

He added: “Our study revealed that eight in ten businesses operating in the transport and logistics industry are worried about the effects of another big freeze, substantially higher than the 58 per cent average across all business sectors.”

The Close Business Barometer is a quarterly survey of more than 500 companies from across the UK, designed to gauge SME owner/manager sentiment on a range of issues.

Meanwhile, workplace expert Acas has issued winter workplace advice for employers, available at www.acas.org.uk/winter.

Peter McGee, director of Acas for Yorkshire and The Humber, said: *Winter often brings dilemmas for employers – adverse weather conditions can mean staff shortages due to travel disruption, and seasonal celebrations often result in a stampede to book annual leave. We all know it’s going to happen but how many of us plan in advance?

“Our advice is: don’t get caught cold – have clear policies around issues such as getting to work and taking leave requests and communicate those to staff now.”