Payment delays lengthen for very small businesses

In the first half of the year, small and medium-sized businesses were faced with a significant increase in payment delays, according to a study by Altares published in September. We take a closer look at the lengthening payment delays that are penalizing small businesses.

Very small businesses, the most penalized category of company

While the national average for late payment in France is around 11.5 days, VSEs with fewer than three employees stand out, with an average delay of 12.2 days. Similarly, companies with more than 50 employees saw their delay increase by one day in the space of a year, from 11.2 to 12.4 days.

This situation is particularly worrying for small businesses, which find themselves exposed to a combination of unfavourable factors that seriously weaken their situation:

  • the slowdown in business,
  • inflation,
  • the energy crisis,
  • rising interest rates.

Late payments have a significant impact on the cash flow of SMEs. According to the 2022 annual report of the Observatoire des délais de paiement, in 2021, the damage suffered by these companies amounted to a sum of 12 billion euros. Despite this, SMEs are generally exemplary when it comes to payments, with three quarters of them paying their suppliers in less than 60 days.

The challenges of payment terms for VSEs and SMEs

Although late payments have generally fallen compared with 2021, some sectors, notably hotels & catering, transport and logistics, are still experiencing unfavorable trends.

More and more small and medium-sized businesses are finding themselves in difficulty due to weak cash flows, partly because of the failure of large groups to meet payment deadlines. In fact, less than 40% of them pay their invoices promptly. Bercy is currently targeting these companies, and intends to impose dissuasive fines to stop them jeopardizing the financial health of smaller businesses.

In addition, local authorities and the hospital civil service, whose current payment times average 29 days, are encouraged to follow the example of the French State, which has considerably reduced its payment times.