Smaller companies are putting jobs at risk by falling behind in their Year 2000 preparations, the head of the government?s Action 2000 agency warned this week.
Companies employing 10 to 250 people, which account for one-third of jobs in the UK private sector, are the least prepared to deal with the millennium bug, Don Cruickshank, chairman of Action 2000, said.
While the vast majority - 88 per cent - of larger companies had a ?very reasonable chance of being finished on time?, Action 2000?s research revealed that, while two out of five smaller companies were aware of the bug problem, they were very late in doing anything about it.
?This makes for depressing reading for this crucial section of the economy,? Cruickshank said. ?Too many of these companies are playing a high risk game with their business? profitability and reputation, and their employees' future,? he warned.
Of particular concern are companies in Northern Ireland, Wales, and the West Midlands, where up to half of firms are behind on their preparations.
The consequences for smaller companies that wait too long, Cruickshank warned, could be that skilled people will not be available, and that larger partners will make preferred supplier status dependent on millennium readiness.
While Action 2000?s research showed most larger companies are well on course with their preparations, Cruickshank said, it will now focus on ?laggard, individual companies, and sectors which are crucial to the economy as a whole".
This could take the form of a 'name and shame'-style campaign, where individual companies were singled out for being behind in their preparations.
The government?s focus on small to medium sized businesses has been heavily criticised by Robin Guenier, chairman of independent pressure group Taskforce 2000, who has repeatedly called on it to identify the larger organisations who are most at risk from the millennium bug.
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