Empowering the Freelance Economy

Top ten worst late payers in the UK

Freelancers are having to use their credit cards and overdrafts to fill the funding gaps due to companies not paying their invoices on time / Photo by Liza Summer via Pexels
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New IPSE research finds that late payments have worsened despite recent government reforms, alluding that not enough is being done to crack down on companies that do not pay freelancers on time.

Now more than ever freelancers must do credit checks or some due diligence about new clients before they start working with them.

  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of freelancers have had to use their credit card or overdraft and a further one in five (21%) have used up all or most of their savings as a result of a client not paying them on time.
  • Nearly one in five freelancers (18%) reported that they had to wait over three months for a payment.

IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) has unveiled the top ten worst offending businesses for late payments in the UK, following the launch of its new Payment Practices Index.

Since April 2017, large-sized companies and limited liability partnerships have been required to report their payment practices to the government on a half-yearly basis. As part of efforts to improve payment practices by companies in the UK, IPSE has collated the latest release of payment data from the UK Government.

  • MINSTER LAW LIMITED (469 days)
  • MARKEN LIMITED (141 days)

To coincide with the Payment Practices Index, IPSE is also publishing brand new research on the impact of late payments on self-employed workers. The research finds that despite recent efforts by the government to clamp down on late payments, over a third of self-employed workers (35%) still haven’t been paid on time in the last 12 months – with nearly one in five (18%) reporting that they had to wait over three months for a client to send over what they are legally owed.

What’s more, the research found that the average amount owed to freelancers due to late payment has remained relatively stable over the past two years, rising from £5,140 in 2020 to £5,230 in 2022.

Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), said: 

“Late payments can be threatening to self-employed workers at the best of times. However, at time when the country is going through an unparalleled squeeze in living standards, the failure to clamp down on late payments is fatal to freelancers and the future of self-employment.

“While the government has made good progress in tackling late payment in recent years by creating the Small Business Commissioner role and reforming the Prompt Payment Code Compliance Board, more still needs to be done. For instance, the next Prime Minister must go a step beyond the Prompt Payment Code by banning payment terms over 30 days, so that freelancers can be safe in knowing that they won’t have to max out credit cards or dip into their overdraft to get by.”

Back in March, the Small Business Commissioner reported that five leading companies – Diageo Scotland Limited, Diageo Global Supply IBC Limited, Diageo Northern Ireland Limited, Diageo Great Britain Limited and Unilever UK Limited – had been formally removed from the Prompt Payment Code (PPC) after failing to honour their commitments.

The voluntary code requires companies to pay 95% of invoices within 30 days to their small suppliers and pay 95% of all invoices within 60 days.

At the time of the report, all five companies had the opportunity to voluntarily withdraw their Code membership but had not engaged with the Small Business Commissioner who runs the PPC on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Late payments and the cost-of-living crisis

With the cost-of-living crisis worsening, the report also found that the failure to get businesses to pay self-employed workers on time is forcing many freelancers to make difficult decisions around their finances. One in five self-employed workers (20%) have reported that they found themselves with no money to cover basic living expenses such as rent and bills after an experience of late payment.

Moreover, nearly a quarter (23%) have had to use their credit card or overdraft and a further one in five (21%) have used up all or most of their savings as a result of a client not paying them on time.

When analysing how long self-employed workers are waiting for payments from clients, the research found that nearly three in ten of self-employed workers (28%) have to wait between a month and three months beyond the agreed payment deadline for payment. Concerningly, nearly one in five freelancers (18%) reported that they had to wait over three months for a payment.

The impact of late payments on mental health

Late payments are also impacting on the mental health of self-employed workers, their partners and children.

Almost half of freelancers (49%) state that they have felt stressed or anxious as a result of not getting paid on time, whilst almost one in three (31%) indicated that they felt less productive due to an instance of late payment.

What’s more, the report found that a further three in ten (28%) have lost sleep over worry and that over a fifth (26%) have experienced a lack of confidence as a result of late payment.

Here are some steps you can take to avoid late payments as a freelancer

  1. Ian Price says

    People should use the existing legislation: https://payontime.co.uk

    I’ve only had to use this once on any tardy payer, after which they became prompt payers.

    They are trying to use you as a cheap source of finance
    If you make the money expensive, they’ll look elsewhere.

    And remember that most accounting departments don’t talk directly to those you are working with so it is unlikely to affect your relationship with your client.

  2. Laurence Hoppen says

    If you include refunding cusomers for overpayments, British Gas should be top of your list.

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