UK SMEs left exposed to the elements

bad weather

With 66 per cent of SMEs reporting lost revenue due to bad weather and almost a third having suffered weather-related damage to property over the last five years, it is surprising to find that nearly half have no business continuity plan in place to ensure they can continue trading, while over two thirds do not have any insurance cover to protect them.

The nation-wide research found SMEs were being hit hardest by employees being delayed or prevented from reaching work. Reduced demand for goods and services and disruption to their supply chain were also common problems caused by bad weather.

Overall, SMEs reported an average of 14.7 hours lost a year due to the weather. However, some sectors lost much more; with engineering and building – 20.8 hours, manufacturing and utilities – 19.6 hours, and unsurprisingly transport – 19.7 hours losing around half a week every year to the effects of bad weather.

According to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, there are nearly 5.5 million SMEs in the UK, employing 15.7 million people and turning over £1.8 trillion. With 69 per cent of SME’s lacking any insurance cover for bad weather, nearly 3.8 million businesses are exposed to the elements.

The research also found that on average, SME’s estimated £523,934 of property and related assets could be at risk of damage by adverse weather – meaning over £1.9 trillion of UK SME’s property and assets could be unprotected.

Topping the list for lost revenue is Yorkshire – 79 per cent of SMEs,  and Scotland – 74 per cent – two regions which often suffer periods of bad weather including flooding, high winds and heavy snow fall. Meanwhile, Wales and the South West are two of the most resilient regions, with the fewest SMEs reporting lost revenue due to bad weather. Nevertheless, well over half of small and medium sized businesses in these regions have still lost revenue.

Despite the majority of SMEs losing revenue due to the weather, a worrying high number remain uninsured. With the national average at 69 per cent, the North East is the most uninsured region with 82 per cent of SMEs saying they have no cover for the effects of bad weather.

Region % of SMEs with lost revenue
due to bad weather
% SMEs without insurance
for bad weather
Yorkshire 79 66
Scotland 74 55
Midlands 71 64
North West 68 66
London 67 69
UK Average 65 69
South East 65 76
North East 64 82
East 62 70
South West 58 70
Northern Ireland 58 67
Wales 53 72

Commenting on the findings, Joe Thelwell from Towergate, said: The UK’s economy depends on small and medium sized businesses. But far too many firms have left themselves exposed to the unpredictable and at times damaging British weather. The majority of SMEs do not have appropriate contingency plans or insurance to protect them against lost business and unexpected bills resulting from the havoc our weather can wreak.

“With millions of people’s livelihoods depending on SMEs, it is crucial that these businesses take steps to better prepare for bad weather so they can get up and running as soon as possible. Practically, that could include backing-up computer systems and records, identifying contingency premises or taking out specific policies.”