An overhaul of the Prompt Payment Code (PPC) to crack down on delayed invoices owed to small businesses has been announced by the government today.
Under new reforms, companies that have signed up to the Prompt Payment Code will be obliged to pay small businesses within 30 days – half the time outlined in the current Code.
Despite almost 3,000 companies signing the Code, poor payment practices are still rife, with many payments delayed well beyond the current 60-day target required for 95% of invoices. Currently, £23.4 billion worth of late invoices are owed to firms across Britain, impacting on businesses’ cash flow and ultimate survival.
To help tackle the problem, businesses owners, Finance Directors or CEOs will be required to take personal responsibility by signing the Code, acknowledging that suppliers can charge interest on late invoices under the Code and that breaches will be investigated. Those signed up to the Code will redouble their efforts to ensure payments are made on time and breaches will continue to be publicised by the government in order to encourage compliance.
The move comes as the government seeks to strengthen the powers of the Small Business Commissioner (SBC) to ensure larger companies pay their smaller partners on time. New powers proposed in a recently closed consultation include legally binding payment orders, launching investigations and levying fines.
Small Business Minister Paul Scully said: “Our incredible small businesses will be vital to our recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, supporting millions of livelihoods across the UK.
“Today, we are relieving some of the pressure on small business owners by introducing significant reforms to the UK payments regime – pushing big businesses to pay their suppliers on time.
“By signing up to the Prompt Payment Code and sticking to its rules, large firms can help Britain to build back better, protecting the jobs, innovation and growth which small businesses drive right across the UK.”
According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), around 50,000 businesses close every year due to late payments, damaging Britain’s prosperity and threatening jobs.
Small businesses account for two-thirds of UK private sector employment and more than half of business turnover. Late payments impact their bottom line, which can hold back investment or job creation and, in the worst cases, lead to job losses and business closures.
Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman, Mike Cherry, said: “A late payment crisis was massively stifling the UK economy before COVID hit. The pandemic has deepened it. FSB has campaigned for good payment practice to become the norm across the UK economy, not least through a toughening of the Prompt Payment Code and the adoption of 30 days as the new maximum payment period.
“It’s good to see the progress announced today by BEIS and especially the outgoing Small Business Commissioner that has driven this agenda. It’s now time for swift delivery, and for all existing and future PPC signatories to implement 30 days as the new maximum.”