UK Micro-Businesses Say Late Payment Enforcer Will Fail


The U.K. is in the midst of a search for a late payments enforcer as the nation continues to struggle with late B2B payments to small suppliers. But new research from FreeAgent suggests companies — at least, some of the smallest ones — aren’t sure such an enforcer will make a difference.

Reports Monday (Feb. 27) said the SME software company released its latest research and found that most micro-businesses and freelancers in the U.K. believe a “late payments tsar” won’t make a meaningful impact on the nation’s late payments problem. Only 2 percent said they believe the Small Business Commissioner will be successful in the effort, according to the survey of more than 700 freelancers and micro-business owners.

Further, the majority of the businesses surveyed (57 percent) said they weren’t even aware that the government was looking to establish such a position.

“Late payment is a huge problem that has needed to be addressed for a long time,” said FreeAgent CEO and cofounder Ed Molyneux in a statement. “We’ve found that the overwhelming majority of freelancers and micro-business owners have experienced a late paying client at some point in their career, and there are a significant number of invoices that are paid late in the U.K. every year.”

Previous research by FreeAgent found that, in 2015, 51 percent of all invoices sent by U.K. micro-businesses and freelancers were paid late.

This information is not new: The U.K. government has established the position of Small Business Commissioner in direct response to this problem. Earlier this month the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which created the position, announced that it has launched its search for the individual that will fill the role.

The Commissioner will be tasked with implementing a payments culture change in the nation and act as “a national spokesperson for small businesses affected by payment issues.”

But the government’s announcement this month coincided with separate reports that the government itself was struggling to pay suppliers on time. Reports in Government Computing said that the Ministry of Defense is late with many of its payments to government contractors as it has encountered struggles in updating its eProcurement system.