Snow and wintry conditions keep people off work as absences cost £2.2bn

Employers have been warned to expect another week of high absence rates as the snow and extreme weather conditions cause millions to be house-bound.

Staff absences hit 15% at the peak of the cold snap last week, with an estimated 4.3m people off work.

The data, based on absence rates at 47 companies covering 100,000 employees, was collected by absence management firm FirstCare.

The direct cost of the snowfall to UK companies is now expected to exceed £2.2bn, using data from the latest CBI Absence and Labour Turnover Survey.

Aaron Ross, chief executive of FirstCare, said: “With the cold snap continuing into this week we expect high levels of absence to persist.

“It is paramount that employers review and revise their working plans for the days ahead to ensure employee safety is at the top of the agenda.

“Guidance should be given on what business activities are essential and which can be put on hold until the weather improves.”

The Centre for Economic and Business Research has warned that the level of snow-related absences at a time of recession could take some companies to the brink, causing up to 2,000 additional businesses to potentially collapse in the first quarter of 2010.

But many employers have taken the opportunity to put home working policies into practice and have minimised their absence rates and maintained many core services.

Signify, a supplier of secure remote access software for home working, saw a 50% rise in the use of remote logins to corporate IT systems last week.

Meanwhile, a snap poll of 462 employers by employment law firm Peninsula, at the height of the snowfall on Wednesday last week, revealed that 44% of the UK workforce were working from home.

One employer which relied heavily on home working technology was law firm Linklaters.

Caroline Rawes, HR director, told Personnel Today: “Many of our people have been affected by the snow, in terms of being able to make it into the office.

“We equip our staff with the technology to access their work desktop from their home computer or indeed via BlackBerrys, so the vast majority of staff will be able to work effectively from home in situations when they cannot make it to the office.”

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