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Gloucestershire small businesses biggest losers in snow fallout

By citizennick  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

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AN EXPECTED big thaw following the week-long freeze is expected this weekend in Gloucestershire creating increasing risks of floods.

The Met Office shows Gloucestershire on the edge of a band of heavy rain sweeping in from the Atlantic this afternoon. But it could turn to sleet or snow if temperatures remain freezing.

A warmer weekend, with 8C (46F) predicted tomorrow, will signal the end of the big freeze, but the start of a thaw that could be just as disruptive.

Ian Thomas, the Citizen's weather expert says the county is in for another soaking.

"Today will start off cold but things will begin to change as the day goes on," he said.

"There will be a high risk of flooding in some areas, as the snow melts away and temperatures rise."

This week's snow and ice has caused widespread disruption, with hundreds of school closures.

Small businesses could be some of the worst hit as workers struggled to make it in and supply chains ground to a hat.

Helen Roberts is a small business advisor in Longlevens and says attitudes towards the heavy snow could be having a crippling effect on the economic recovery.

She says one of her clients near the Welsh border specialising in engineering parts for the rail industry is losing £25,000 a day from staff not turning up for work.

"I believe staff could be making more of an effort to make it into work," she said.

"One of my clients has been losing huge sums as a result of 40 per cent of their staff not turning up for work.

"My advice would be to dock wages or holiday hours from staff who don't make it in. It is having a damaging effect on the wider economy, but particularly small businesses as this would have been going on all over the country.

"Workers could be doing more to help each other out, by sharing lifts in with people who may have 4x4 vehicles."

Employment law states if businesses stay open, employees have a duty to make it in else they could be forced to take holiday or go unpaid.

If a business is closed, it must continue to pay its employees.

Mark Owen, from Moose Marketing and PR, is also chairman of the Gloucestershire Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses.

"With small businesses in particular, cash flow is king," he said. "There is no doubt this spell of weather will have a wider effect on the business community and economy.

"From the golf course owner to taxi-drivers, everyone will be affected.

"Rates, rent and bills will still have to be paid, but footfall is down.

"The effect will be felt two or three months down the line and some businesses on the edge of the precipice could be tipped over the edge as a result."

Chris Price, from Tayntons Solicitors in Clarence Street, Gloucester, said some small businesses are unsure of the law in regard to snow days at work.

"Quite often we are asked by our clients what the 'rules' are in terms of the message to give to employees about staff absence during these periods and the subject of pay," he said.

"In the event that staff can't make the journey, some employers will offer the choice of them taking a days holiday or as unpaid leave. "This can be an important consideration from the point of view of staff morale but there is no obligation to make the offer.

"Good policy and something we do as a firm, is that once we know that a 'snow event' may occur we try to ensure that staff are reminded of the firms policy in advance."

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