BESA survey reports improved payment times


The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has welcomed improved payment times of main contractors with half of large contractors now paying sub-contractors within 30 days

New data from BESA‘s trade body BuildUK states that roughly 50% of large construction firms are now claiming to be paying their sub-contractors within 30 days or fewer.

Some firms are faring better than others with regards to improved payment times. BuildUK explains that whilst some are paying sub-contractors in under 25 days, a small number are still taking well over a month.

Although there has been a general improvement in the average payment of invoices among the country’s top 34 large contractors, the pandemic has prompted fears that these contractors would return to bad habits.

According to the survey, the average payment period has improved by four days in the last six months to 30.4 days. This equates to sub-contractors being paid on average 15 days faster than when Build UK first started gathering payment data in July 2018.

Improved payment times

“Construction is serious about changing the way it does business” claims BuildUK’s deputy chief executive Jo Fautley, citing the three-year improvement as proof.

Late payments have historically been a major problem for SMEs and so BESA is pleased to see progress. It urges main contractors and other large construction players to keep up the momentum to bring down payment periods still further.

“Late payment has been a severe drain on cash flow in our sector for many years forcing a number of perfectly well run companies out of business,” said the Association’s director of legal and commercial Debbie Petford.

“Building services firms are facing challenging conditions created by rising inflation and supply issues, so keeping the cash flowing is more crucial than ever – particularly for smaller businesses.

“There is plenty of work out there and our members are, generally, seeing turnover moving in the right direction, but that makes it even more important that they get paid on time so they can continue to invest in people and processes to be able to deliver projects promptly and on budget.”


The Reporting on Payment Practices and Performance regulations introduced by the government in 2017 has also played a crucial role in improving the situation, BESA reports. However, it must be updated to maintain progress. There are also concerns that some companies are now “gaming the system.

“The regulations have been transformative, but it is important that the reporting process is now updated to reflect the value of the payments – not just the number and volume of transactions,” explained Petford.

“Compliance by value is much more important than compliance by volume, particularly for SMEs. However, it should not be difficult to update the reporting mechanism to achieve this because the processes are now largely automated.

“Without this change, the data will become increasing obsolete because high volumes of low value transactions can be used to distort the true picture and disguise the fact that large amounts of credit remain outstanding,” added Petford.


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