NEW data from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows that more than half of its members were paid beyond the agreed payment date by large companies in 2013.
The FSB is calling on the Government to strengthen the Prompt Payment Code to make it easier for firms to complain about payment terms, and for a culture change amongst large companies who repeatedly pay late and who have been extending their payment terms sometimes to an unacceptable 120 days.
Neil Eames, development manager for the FSB Wessex region said for those firms affected, being paid late or on extended terms hits them hard, and can mean reduced profitability, paying their suppliers late and restricting their business growth.
He said the FSB has urged the Government to consider re-launching the Prompt Payment Code (PPC) website and to promote more widely the existing ‘challenge' function – where small firms can complain about a firm signed up to the code it feels isn't a prompt payer.
Additionally, to strengthen the PPC, the FSB wants to see all signatories clearly state what their maximum and average payment terms are as well as a named contact for small businesses who face difficulties.
As included in the EU Directive enacted in the spring of last year, only in exceptional circumstances should payment terms be more than 60 days.
Mr Eames said: “As the economy gets stronger we must do everything we can help businesses and late payment is an issue the Government and large businesses must tackle. “Small businesses simply can't be expected to lend interest free to their large customers, which is in effect what extended payment terms and late payments results in.
“Small firms need confidence to charge interest and complain about late payments.
“The fear among the smallest firms is that complaining about late payment should result is lost future work which will harm cash-flow for their business.
“We have urged the Government to look at strengthening the Prompt Payment Code so it is mandatory for the largest businesses to spell out their payment terms, as well as agree to pay quickly, and for large businesses to take seriously their responsibility to pay on time.”