The UK economy has suffered a huge blow when millions of people could not get to work because of travel chaos caused by the snow, losing firms valuable business in the crucial run-up to Christmas.
An estimated two out of five staff were not able to go to work as train services ground to a halt and roads were impassable, with police in some areas advising people not to travel unless it was absolutely necessary.
A survey of almost 1,000 employers found 38% of workers could not get to their office on Thursday morning and a further 43% were late arriving.
A third of the firms questioned by employment law firm Peninsula said they will send their staff home early on Thursday if the bad weather persists.
Peter Done, managing director of Peninsula, said: “Snowfall was the major issue yesterday, but the big problem for businesses today is the icy conditions left behind. Public transport such as buses and trains have been hit with major cancellations making it almost impossible for some workers to get into work this morning.”
Rail commuter routes into London were among the worst hit, with widespread cancellations of services and lengthy delays from area across the South East. Travellers who managed to make it into London suffered delays on London Underground after a series of signal failures and faulty trains hit services.
The TUC repeated its plea for as many people as possible to be allowed to work from home.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “In many parts of the country the advice from the police is not to travel unless journeys are absolutely necessary. Workers everywhere have been braving the snow and ice to get into work, but where the weather makes someone’s usual commute unsafe, or where working parents find themselves with children but with no childcare, a more sensible approach is needed.”
John Walker, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Small businesses have been particularly hard-hit because of the bad weather, with staff unable to make it to work due to snow-bound roads and school closures which meant that parents have to stay at home to look after their children. We are disappointed that we still haven’t learnt the lessons from previous bad weather and that the country has yet again ground to a halt.
“We know that small firms are resilient and resourceful by putting plans in place and offering flexible working hours. It is small businesses that come to the aid of local communities in difficult times, but it is essential that this early and prolonged period of severe weather does not catch out local authorities and they must ensure they are prepared in case it continues into next year.”