The Federation of Small Businesses has called on large companies in the UK to do more to end late payments, poor payment practice and supply chain bullying.
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), has written to all the FTSE 100 companies urging their leaders to take immediate action to stamp out poor payment practices for good. He has asked them to work with small businesses to help foster a new payments culture in the UK.
FSB research shows that the majority (84%) of small firms report being paid late, with 33% saying at least one in four payments arrives later than agreed. A similar proportion (37%) say that agreed payment terms have lengthened in the past two years, hampering cashflow. Only 4% of SMEs say payment terms are improving.
Last week's release of the Parliamentary joint select committee report on the collapse of Carillion highlighted failures at the company including the squeezing of its suppliers and the frailty of the Prompt Payment Code.
The FSB is calling for a non-executive director on company boards to be given specific responsibility for good supply chain practice, not just doing the bare minimum.
"Carillion's demise shone a light on the worst kind of payments practices but unfortunately it isn't a one-off," said Mike Cherry. "Some big businesses use inequality of power in business relationships to squeeze small suppliers and delay payments to improve their own cashflow. This is bullying, pure and simple."
Cherry described poor payment practices as a "national disgrace" and said the UK is "falling behind almost all other industrialised nations in our ability to pay small businesses on time".
Small firms, he said, have the support of the Government; now they need big businesses to get on board. "We can only end the late payments crisis and poor payment practices when we see a fundamental cultural shift in the boardrooms of big business, with those at the very top showing a willingness to address the issue and be accountable for their payment practices."
The FSB estimates that late payments lead to 50,000 small businesses a year closing their doors, costing the economy £2.5 billion annually.