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Small Business Commissioner’s appeal to UK big businesses

Monday 6th April, 2020

Interim Small Business Commissioners Update by Phillip King

I am writing to a number of individual businesses that are displaying the worst examples of payment practice by issuing standard communications to their entire supplier base advising that payments are going to be delayed or stopped.

At this time of national crisis, every business is facing extraordinary pressure on cashflow. Although I understand the need to make commercial decisions in mitigation, I am concerned that this action will damage the supply chain, the economy and the reputation of their own business.

I am also writing to a number of businesses that are showing leadership by ensuring their smallest suppliers’ invoices are paid more quickly and, in some cases, immediately. I want to recognise the steps they are taking and thank them on behalf of small businesses across the UK.

This is a time for collaborating with business partners rather than confronting them. Tough decisions will of course, need to be made but they should be in a spirit of communication and cooperation. A delayed payment to a small or micro business will help ease the pressure on your cashflow but for the business owner not receiving a relatively small payment, it may be the difference between putting food on the table or not. It can also have a huge impact on well-being and mental health. I ask you to consider the human impact of your actions rather than seeing them simply as transactions.

My plea to you as a business leader is to prioritise your small suppliers and pay them as normal but, at the very least, I urge you to ensure individual conversations take place with them, so the impact of your actions is fully understood. Decisions taken in that spirit will allow for exceptions to be made and the worst consequences to be avoided.

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