Late payment a “chronic disease” in the micro-business sector

The issue of late payment has become so prevalent that the UK government has announced that a special small business commissioner will be appointed to specifically deal with the problem

UK freelancers and micro-business owners throughout the UK are still being plagued by late paying clients, according to new research by cloud accounting software company FreeAgent.
The firm, which provides award-winning software for freelancers, micro-businesses and their accountants, has unveiled data showing the extent of the problem of late payment in the UK and which areas are worst affected by it.
FreeAgent reviewed data from a sample of its 50,000+ customer-base and analysed hundreds of thousands of invoices that were sent in the last year. The firm found that Sheffield is the area worst affected by late payment – with just 24% of invoices sent during the 2015 calendar year paid within three days of their payment deadline – closely followed by Twickenham (27%) and Slough (29%).
In contrast, Manchester is least affected by late payment, with 75% of invoices sent by micro-businesses in the city in 2015 paid on time. Across the whole of the UK, around half (51%) of the invoices sent by micro-businesses last year were paid on time.
Worst areas for late payment
City
% of invoices paid on time
Sheffield
24%
Twickenham
27%
Slough
29%
Leeds
39%
Stevenage
39%
Least affected areas for late payment
City
% of invoices paid on time
Manchester
75%
Aberdeen
61%
York
61%
Leicester
58%
Norwich
58%
In 2015, a total of nearly 2.6 million invoices worth more than £3.8 billion were sent by FreeAgent customers.
The issue of late payment has become so prevalent that the UK government has announced that a special small business commissioner will be appointed to specifically deal with the problem. A consultation is currently underway into how this commissioner will consider, determine and make recommendations for complaints.
Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent, said: We know that late payment is a huge issue for the UK economy, but our research shows just how widespread it is for the freelance and micro-business sector.
“We found that just half of the invoices sent by micro-businesses across the UK get paid late, while there are certain hotspots where the problem is even more prevalent. And this isn’t just clients taking an extra week or two to pay – it also includes the chronic late payers who sit on invoices for months, as well as those who just don’t pay at all.
“It’s certainly good news that the government recognises the late payment problem and is consulting over the appointment of a small business commissioner to tackle the issue. However, I fear that whoever is appointed will have limited power to actually punish companies who routinely pay late, aside from just naming and shaming them.
“Micro-business owners need to get paid promptly to keep their cash flow healthy and most don’t have the luxury of being able to absorb a late – or non – payment in their accounts. We need to see a complete cultural shift when it comes to paying invoices, so that these types of smaller businesses are not put at risk.”

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Hannah Hamilton, who is a former Fife College student, is a reporter and assistant content editor for Scotland B2B, specialising in B2B news and features. She can be contacted via editorial@scotlandb2b-eastcoast.co.uk