Fed up of clients who refuse to stick to agreed payment terms? Feel like you're being held to ransom by large customers who insist on making suppliers wait two or three months before they pay for goods or services received?
The government’s Small Business Commissioner (SBC) wants to hear from you. The Commissioner’s office, which is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), is holding a consultation on SME’s experiences of late payments that closes on 15th December.
While here at Safe Collections we have long argued that the time for talking about late payments should have passed, this is a great opportunity for small businesses that are invariably on the wrong end of cynical payment practices to have their say.
In fact, we’d urge everyone who has ever had an invoice paid late - and we’re talking millions of UK SMEs - to get in touch and share their experiences. It’s more vital than ever that we make sure the government listens.
Speak truth to power
In our last blog, we reported how late payments have leapt another 20% during the pandemic. Small UK businesses are now waiting on a staggering £61 billion in invoices that should have been paid. Two thirds of SMEs are affected - the cash flow crisis this is causing could bring the entire economy to its knees. It’s time to speak truth to power to avert disaster.
The danger is that if the SBC only gets a modest response to its survey, that could be used as evidence by the government that the issue keeps getting overstated and direct statutory intervention isn’t needed.
Although the SBC was itself set up to champion small businesses with tackling late payments a key part of its remit, in five years its only real ‘achievement’ has been the voluntary Prompt Payment Code.
Under the code, signatories are ‘obliged’ to pay all invoices within 30 days - itself cut in January 2021 from an original 60 days. But aside from being removed as signatory to the code, the scheme lacks anything to force businesses to enforce the obligations. Plus, it holds absolutely no sway with organisations that choose not to sign up with it.
The SBC and the government need to hear from microbusinesses, sole traders, entrepreneurs and small employers and be told in no uncertain terms that their voluntary codes haven’t worked. Take the pandemic, Brexit, global slowdowns and whatever you like out of the equation, and the SMEs that form the backbone of the UK economy would still be on their knees not because they do not get paid on time.
Take this opportunity to make that loud and clear - complete the SBC late payment survey before 15th December and demand real change.