A new year, a new decade even - but still the damning picture of just how much damage the UK’s late payment culture is doing to the small business economy continues to develop.
The latest depressing statistics, courtesy of digital business banking platform Tide, show that UK SMEs are on average spending a staggering one and a half hours every day chasing unpaid invoices. When you extrapolate that across the economy, that translates into 900,000 working hours being lost every single day.
The latest official figures detailing the number of convictions and other enforcement actions made under the Companies Act show that Insolvency Service activity is down by as much as 50% year-on-year in a number of key indicators.
The Insolvency Service publishes monthly statistics detailing the number of prosecutions, fines and winding up orders it has executed against individuals and businesses for breaching rules relating to the fit and proper running of businesses. Many of the actions are made under the terms of the Companies Act 2006, which sets out clear responsibilities for company directors and makes individuals personally liable for mismanagement of businesses leading to insolvency.
Figures taken from a government consultation into tackling late payment culture reveal that just one in 10 businesses paid late by clients take up the option of adding permissible charges.
The report published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy further confirms the shocking extent of late payments across the UK economy, with 97% of participants in the consultation saying they had experience of not being paid on time. More than a third of the businesses asked (36%) said more than half of their invoices were settled after the agreed deadline.
One of the things suppliers are always advised to do before agreeing to provide any client with goods or services on account is to check their credit rating.
It’s a simple way to increase your own protection against serial defaulters and outright rip-off merchants. If a company or an individual has a good credit score, it means they haven’t got anything in their past that should give you cause for concern about their ability or intention to pay.
Another week, another tale of company administration, job losses and suppliers facing an anxious wait on whether they’ll ever get anything back on unpaid invoices.
The collapse of Flybmi, the small regional airline based at East Midlands Airport, has resulted in the ‘majority’ of the company’s 376 staff being laid off with immediate effect. Following Monarch last year, it is the second UK airline to go under in less than 12 months.
Sadly, after reporting in our last blog on the issues digital magazine The Pool was having with paying freelance contributors, its financial issues have come to a head. Talks to save the ailing publication with an injection of new cash apparently made no headway and it has entered administration.
As well as meaning 20-plus members of staff now face redundancy, the development leaves freelancers who are still awaiting payment on long overdue invoices in an even more precarious position.
Lifestyle magazine The Pool has suspended all freelancer commissions after it emerged it was facing a sizeable backlog of late payments owed to contributors as well as to staff.
New editor Cate Sevilla took the decision to halt all new work requests for freelance journalists and photographers, including from regular columnists, after being inundated with queries over unpaid invoices since she took the job in September.
So it is that time of year again, businesses are scrambling to get things finished for the big Christmas shut down and, for a few days at least, you can leave your problems in the office - no chasing invoices, no worrying about cash flow, no playing the diplomat with awkward suppliers or clients.
But at the risk of dampening the festive spirits, it is only a temporary respite. Those payments you are struggling to get finalised will still be outstanding come January. But on the other hand, the New Year is always a great time to make a fresh start. So as our Christmas present to you, here is our 12-step guide to what you can do to maximise your chances of getting paid on time in 2019.
It feels like we have been here before somehow. Lots of well-meaning words, a tough-sounding stance… and then what? Rinse and repeat.
The latest announcement from the government on the subject of late payment culture has come in the form of a “call for evidence” from Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst specifically on how to end the abuse of SMEs by large corporate clients.
Just under half of large businesses admit to paying suppliers late to protect their own cash flow, according to a new report.
In the UK Business Payments Barometer 2018 survey carried out by Bottomline, 44% of businesses with between 250 and 10,000 employees said they pay invoices late in order to protect liquidity or prioritise other payments.
This comes just a year after the government introduced its Duty to Report (DTR) regulation requiring qualifying large businesses to publish information on payment practices, including average time taken to settle invoices.
Applicable to any company with more than 250 employees, £36m turnover or £18m on the balance sheet, the government hoped DTR would help to tackle late payment culture by bringing the worst excesses out into the open. If these latest survey figures are taken as a gauge, it is yet to work.