A police spokeswoman said: "There is a fear that because of the length of the break businesses will be at risk from burglars. We are asking all companies to be extra vigilant and take precautions over the millennium period."
The extended holidays will cost business an estimated pounds 5bn in working time, a London Chamber of Commerce study showed yesterday.
Many British firms have decided to close down completely between Christmas Eve and 4 January because they believe it will be more efficient. Christmas and New Year fall on weekends this year and have pushed statutory holidays into the working week, meaning there are in effect only one and a half working days between the two holidays. A spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce said the shutdown will cause losses of pounds 800m in the City alone: "There really is an end-of-term feeling about the City at the moment. Big bonuses have been on the cards for quite a few people this year," he said.
"If you get very small bonuses then people tend to view life a bit more seriously. If you get big bonuses then the champagne corks start popping. If city workers are being paid a big bonus it's because they've had a good year and they're hardly going to find their boss is standing over them cracking the whip."
He also said that City firms reliant on information technology were wary of any problems that might be caused by the millennium bug. "Companies are gearing up for any millennium bug problems. There are indications that partly because of that and because the markets are traditionally more volatile at this time of year they are advising clients to hang fire on transacting new business until the new year."
IT specialists are one group of workers who will not be able to take advantage of the long holiday. As many as 30,000 people will be on hand in the City to deal with any problems that might arise. Outside the City, other firms will be taking advantage of the extended holiday. Graham Playle, managing director of Creative Business Services, a graphic design business in Leytonstone, east London, said: "We've seen nothing but notices that people are shutting down. If the customers and suppliers are, we might as well too."
Nadim Ednam-La Perouse, managing director of WOW Toys in Fulham, west London, said yesterday that his 20 employees would be getting time off because "few customers come in during this period and we think it's important to give everyone who works here a good rest.
"It's both physical and psychological," he added.