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Cath Everett

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It’s snow joke for employers and the economy

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This week’s snow has seen staff absence levels leap four-fold rise compared to last year, with the cost to the economy expected to hit as much as £1.2 billion per day in lost business.

 
According to FirstCare, which provides absence management services, employers in Scotland and the North of England have been most affected as heavy snowfall has seen many employees simply unable to get into work.
 
Aaron Ross, the firm’s chief executive, said: “The early part of the week has brought about a four-fold increase in the numbers of absences relating to weather conditions. It is essential that employers take prompt action by accommodating staff with alternative working arrangements to minimise costs to their business.”
 
They should also continue to review and revise their working plans, prioritising essential business activities and putting any non-essential activities on hold until the end of the week, he added.
 
But insurance company RSA warned that the freezing weather conditions could cost the UK economy as much as £1.2 billion per day if they continued during the run-up to Christmas.
 
The cold snap in January, which was the worst for 30 years, resulted in about 44% of staff not getting to work at various times, costing the economy an estimated £690 million per day in lost sales and business disruption.
 
But ongoing bad weather could have a severe impact on Christmas shopping levels on the High Street, forcing many consumers online. It could also lead to Christmas parties, drinks and restaurant visits being cancelled, which would hit restaurant and bar owners. Other businesses may not be able to open due to a shortage of both stock and staff.
 
David Greaves, a director at RSA, said: “This cold front couldn’t come at a worse time for the UK. Bad weather in the run-up to Christmas will have a major impact on the UK’s economy and could lead to significant losses for already struggling businesses.”
 
Many retailers were relying on a sales rush before the VAT increase in January, but if employers could not open for business and people cancelled both shopping trips and Christmas events, the country could lose up to one fifth of daily GDP, he added.
 
“If the weather continues for the next two weeks, as the Met Office is predicting, this figure will quickly spiral to more than £12 billion, dwarfing the hit we took in January this year,” Greaves said.

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