By Francesca James

On-site business emergencies are costing UK SMEs £598 million a year in lost earnings and repair costs.

A study from Home 3’s Business Emergency Assistance reveals that more than one in three (38 per cent) small businesses has experienced problems on their premises in the last year, with power failures (41 per cent), blocked drains (25 per cent) and lighting failure (20 per cent) the issues most likely to be reported.

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of affected businesses suffered a loss of earnings as a result and almost a fifth (16 per cent) had to close their premises. Almost one in ten (9 per cent) has lost customers as a result of their business’ breakdown, and some (3 per cent) believe it’s even affected their company’s reputation.

The biggest on-site problems affecting SME owners this year are:

1.Power failure
2.Blocked drains
3.Lighting failure
4.Burst or leaking water pipe
5.Boiler/heating failure
6.Damage to doors/windows

As a result, SME owners lost 17.4 million working hours in the past year waiting for tradesmen to arrive — an average of 13.4 hours per incident. For some unfortunate SMEs, the hours have tallied up as they have suffered incidents more than three times in the past 12 months.

Despite generally relying on personal recommendation when choosing tradesmen, SME bosses are as vulnerable as consumers when it comes to repairs. One in ten of those affected by a business problem have been the victim of a cowboy tradesman’s botched repairs, while one in ten found they’d been overcharged.

Commenting on the report, Steve Narey, Product and marketing director, Home 3 said: “In the current economic climate, small businesses are seeing their profit margins squeezed from every angle. Any interruption to business continuity costs a company dear but unexpected emergencies are a particular problem for SME owners. It’s imperative that SMEs put procedures in place to plan for business disruptions. While it’s impossible to plan for every eventuality, owners need to be prepared should the worst happen — from policies on communicating to customers, staffing issues if premises are closed, through to fulfilment contingencies.”

“In addition, Home 3’s Business Emergency Assistance provides confidence in service delivery with its team of vetted local tradesmen that will arrive on time as agreed. We aim to minimise disruption and enable companies to get trading again quickly and maintain that all important cash flow.”

In the event of emergencies, Business Emergency Assistance enables SMEs to access a 24-hour three-way claims helpline connecting them to an expert agent and an approved local tradesman. On the call, parties can arrange the most suitable time for call-out and are guaranteed service by the nearest available and approved tradesman.

Home 3 was launched in 2009 as a joint venture between CPP and MAPFRE ASISTENCIA. CPP is an international life-assistance specialist that handles millions of customer calls per year, while MAPFRE ASISTENCIA is Spain’s largest insurer. The service boasts a 9,500 strong tradesmen network -