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Small businesses hard hit by staff absence due to snow-bound roads and closed schools

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

A report from the Federation of Small Business (FSB) found 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% 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 10 (40%) said the snow-covered roads led to a disruption of business services and goods; three in 10 (29%) saw a loss of growth and demand; 18% lost access to business premises; and 11% had to close completely.

Small businesses also showed resilience and resourcefulness, putting plans in place to deal with the snow fall: four in 10 (42%) put in place policies for remote working; three in 10 (30%) offered flexible working hours; and 17% bought their own supply of grit and salt.

John Wright, national chairman at the FSB 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 learned 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."