Are you an SME who is contracted to supply (or are considering supplying) a large company? If so, how confident are you payment of your invoices will be paid in a timely manner, if at all?

Why it’s important to check your credit file

In recent times we have witnessed some large companies failing, including Connaught Construction, BHS and recently, Carillion.  With each failure there is a wake of debt owed to thousands of suppliers that will end up being written off.  Some of that debt was unpaid because the supplier was caught up in the contractual web of having to continue to supply or face the potential of being held in breach of contract.  Others may be apportioned to a “Relaxed” credit control.  After all, the biggest customer on your books is too big to fail, isn’t it?  The examples given answer that question!

However, those in charge of considering a supply line to large companies have a tool available to enable them to determine whether the prospect of working with a large company is the “Golden opportunity” or something where you politely say, “No thanks.”

The Small Business Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (“SBEEA”) introduced a payment policy reporting obligation on all large companies. A “Large company” is defined as one that meets at least two of the following:

  • Annual turnover of at least £36 million.
  • Balance sheet value of £18 million.
  • At least 250 employees.

 

The reporting duties imposed by the SBEEA came into effect from 6 April 2017 so we should start seeing these payment reports very shortly as financial year ends will need to provide for this obligation.

The information required in this report must incorporate a narrative description of the business standard payments terms and include:

  1. The standard contractual length of time for payment.
  2. How suppliers have been notified (or consulted) on any changes in this policy within the financial year.
  3. Description of their policy for resolving disputes relating to payments.
  4. Statistics covering:
  • the average number of days to make payments.
  • The percentage of payments made within 30 days, 60 days and 61 days or longer.
  • The percentage of payments due within the reporting period that were not paid within the agreed payment period.

 

They will also have to reveal whether:

  • Suppliers are offered e-invoicing.
  • Supply chain finance.
  • The policies regarding deducting sums from payments due as a form of charge to remain on the suppliers’ list.
  • Whether they have deducted sums from payments due.
  • Whether they are a member of a payments code and, if so, name the code.

 

This report must be published on a web-based service provided by Government and within 30 days of the end of the reporting period covered. While it is still in its infancy this service should prove invaluable when you are considering working with a large company and should be part of your credit/sales practice before you sign on that dotted line.