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It can be difficult for any business dealing with late payments and the impact this can have; worrying whether or not they’ll get the money through in time to pay staff’, or even their own suppliers. So, it’s incredible to believe that so many companies facing such problems are reluctant to do anything about it, preferring simply to grin and bear it.
The collapse of Carillion plc in January this year should be a lesson to all. The company left much of its supply chain unpaid – many small businesses - and is a costly example of how small business is often at the back of the queue when it comes to getting paid.
Based in Birmingham, the office of the Small Business Commissioner was launched in December 2017 to ensure fair payment practices for Britain's 5.7 million small businesses and support them in resolving their payment disputes with larger companies. Established under the Enterprise Act 2016 the SBC is headed by the Small Business Commissioner, Paul Uppal and is part of a package of measures to tackle late payment practices between businesses across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It is now estimated that around a third of payments to small businesses are late with the average value of each payment at £6,142 and it is currently estimated that some £14 billion is owed to small businesses. This has led to 20% of small businesses running into cash flow problems due to late payments, resulting in some joining the 50,000 business deaths that occur in the UK every year. Furthermore, if the late payments due to them were paid on time, it could potentially deliver a £2.5 billion annual boost to the economy.
Commenting on nature of the challenge Small Business Commissioner, Paul Uppal said: “Successful businesses are built on integrity, entrepreneurial spirit and trusting relationships and I want to highlight that Britain can be the best place for new entrepreneurs to establish and grow their own business. However, late payments put their health at serious risk and in turn affect not only the livelihoods but the wellbeing of entrepreneurs and their employees alike.”
Since its launch the SBC has gained insight and intelligence on the unethical practices of larger businesses imposing invoice discounting in order to receive prompt payment. Paul Uppal continued: “I wonder how a typically employed person would feel if they received their salaried pay cheque only to find it had been discounted by five, ten or even twenty per cent, just because their employer had paid them on time?” and added: “They would still have their own monthly outgoings to meet – mortgage or rent, utility bills, food, clothing and travel costs – like any small business!”
The SBC works closely with trades bodies, federations, business groups and their representatives, local authorities and national government to support small businesses who are experiencing difficulties being paid. Mr Uppal said: “Through my role I aim to give small businesses the support they deserve, in particular to ensure fair payment practices, which are essential in helping them to thrive.”
For further help and information visit our website www.smallbusinesscommissioner.gov.uk