Late payments cost UK SMES more than £45 billion

Source: Zurich

Results from the latest Zurich SME Risk Index show that more than half (52%) of Britain’s small-and-medium sized enterprises are owed in total an estimated £44.6 billion in late payments

The survey of over 1000 SME owners and decision makers showed that more than one in five (21%) are owed more than £25,000 and almost one in ten (9%) are owed more than £100,000.

Of those who have experienced late payments, almost two thirds (64%) experience typical delays of more than one month on payments which are already more than 30 days overdue. Almost half (45%) are subject to payment delays of up to three months on late payments, while considerably more than one in ten (14%) typically wait up to six months. 

Small business owners are seeing the devastating effects of late payments in the market, as almost two thirds (65%) agree that late payments are leading to SMEs being forced to close down. 

Nearly two in five (39%) confirmed that late payments have had a significant impact on their own business’ cash flow, while almost a quarter (24%) said that late payments had caused their business to go into its overdraft in the past. 

Concerns were also raised about the support on offer to mitigate the problems caused by late payments, with half (50%) of small business owners saying the government should be doing more to help SMEs in these circumstances. 

Paul Tombs, Head of SME Proposition at Zurich, comments: 

“£44 billion owed in late payments to British SMEs is an enormous sum. It is no surprise that many have experienced cash flow problems or have been forced to enter their overdrafts as a result. 

“On an individual basis, many small businesses are owed hundreds of thousands of pounds. In an environment where cash flow is key to small business survival, the situation is simply unsustainable. It is imperative that SME owners receive the support and guidance required and fair access to the funds that they are owed to secure the future of their businesses.”

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