24/02/09

By Ian Campbell

Business travel, especially to international markets, business expenses and training are all set to be cut by employers according to a survey of almost 900 employers conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and consultants KPMG.

Three-quarters of private sector employers (74%) have reduced their travel expenses, compared with 50% in both the public and voluntary sectors. The recession also appears to be encouraging more employers to adopt greener working practices. Almost two thirds (62%) have increased their use of tele/videoconferencing while forty three per cent have increased their use of public transport.

38% of UK employers have reduced business travel. Over two-thirds (69%) of organisations that have reduced business travel spend have reduced travel expenses, while three-fifths (60%) have reduced international travel. Other reductions have also been seen in the use of private transport, for example taxis (mentioned by 64%) and in the use of first class travel (65% have decreased).

When broken down, over three-fifths (68%) of private sector employees say they have decreased the use of first class travel, compared with 54% in the public sector and 40% in the voluntary sector. Two-thirds (66%) of private sector employees have cut international travel, compared with 38% in the public sector and 25% in the voluntary sector. Three-quarters (74%) have reduced travel expenses, compared with 50% in both the public and voluntary sectors.

The authors of the study point out: “While redundancies have understandably been making the headlines, ‘surviving’ employees have also been affected by the credit crunch.”

Employers, for example, were much more likely to refuse requests for overtime and training, while 20 per cent said they had axed free drinks and biscuits at company meetings.

According to the study, 21 per cent had seen a decrease in the number of training requests accepted, while 31 per cent said their organisation had responded to the credit crunch by reducing the number of overtime requests accepted.

Tim Payne, head of human resources at KPMG, said: “It’s no surprise that organisations are reining back on non-essential spending and scrutinising their policies carefully. What is important is that policy changes are made sensitively and in a way which preserves goodwill.”

Almost half of organisations said that workloads of remaining employees had increased during the downturn, while 46 per cent said that employee stress levels had increased. Employers, however, had so far seen “little impact from the credit crunch on issues such as absenteeism, productivity, number of disciplinary hearings, working hours or conflicts in the workplace”.

Gerwyn Davies, Public Policy Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) comments: “While our greatest sympathy should be reserved for those who are losing their jobs during the recession, the effects on surviving employees should not be overlooked. Individual workloads and stress levels look set to rise during the course of the year, placing a greater onus on managers and leaders to communicate regularly and check that workloads do not become unmanageable. This is particularly important against the background of higher levels of job insecurity and lower pay awards. It is pleasing to see so many employers upping their game on communications. This could make all the difference in building the resilience to get organisations through the recession.”