Late payment is reaching epidemic proportions for freelancers and micro-businesses in some parts of the UK according to new research.
Analysis by FreeAgent shows that only half (51%) of invoices sent by UK micro-businesses last year were paid on time; it describes late payment in the UK as a "chronic disease".
The findings highlight the vast differences between payment practices across the UK. The best and worst cities for late payment are just 40 miles apart. Only 29% of invoices sent by Sheffield micro-businesses in 2016 were paid on time, while 79% of invoices sent by Manchester micro-businesses were paid promptly.
Other places with poor payment habits include Peterborough (where 37% of invoices are paid on time), Twickenham (37%), Northampton (38%) and Belfast (42%).
The best areas for prompt payment after Manchester are: Leeds (76%), St Albans (67%), Coventry (61%) and Nottingham (60%).
Ed Molyneux, ceo and co-founder of FreeAgent, said: "Late payments are still a huge issue for the UK economy, but our research shows just how widespread it is for the freelance and micro-business community.
"And we're not just talking about clients taking an extra week or two to pay - this includes chronic late payers who sit on invoices for months, as well as those who just don't pay at all."
The UK Government announced last year that a special small business commissioner will be appointed to deal with the problem. However, the position has still yet to be filled.
Molyneux commented: "It's certainly good news that the Government recognises the late payment problem and is recruiting a small business commissioner to tackle the issue. However this process has dragged on for a considerable amount of time and I fear that whoever is appointed will have limited power to actually punish companies who routinely pay late, aside from just naming and shaming them.
"Micro-business owners need to get paid promptly to keep their cashflow healthy and most don't have the luxury of being able to absorb a late or non-payment in their accounts. We need to see a complete cultural shift when it comes to paying invoices, so that these types of smaller businesses are not put at risk."