Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds has called for late-paying clients to be named and shamed.
Mr Reynolds said accusations of poor payment had focused heavily on main contractors and their supply chains while ignoring how promptly clients pay contractors.
He told Construction News the spotlight now had to turn on poor practices among clients if payment throughout the industry was to improve.
“The visibility is in the construction sector, but not in the client sector,” Mace’s CEO said.
“I think there needs to be, [with] clients paying contractors and consultants, complete transparency about their payment terms.
“Call them out and we can then say, ‘These are the good payers, these are the bad payers’, and after a while everyone will move up.”
Several tier one contractors have recently moved to highlight the payment practices of clients.
Improving payment throughout the supply chain was an obligation of everyone involved in the construction industry, Mr Reynolds said.
The Mace boss was talking to CN at the Construction Leadership Council briefing, at which new co-chair Andy Mitchell told CN he did not think many tier ones were delaying or “abusing” the payment system.
Earlier this year CN published analysis of average payment times for 19 of the 20 biggest contractors. It revealed that the average time to pay was 47 days, with Mace being slightly quick than the average at 45 days.
Mr Reynolds said taking a “magnifying glass” to the industry’s practices and publicising the data was a positive step that would lead to improvements.
“I think there are some positive things we’ve done and as a consequence of that we’ll start to improve, in the same way [as happened] with health and safety,” he said.
Poor payment has gained political traction in the wake of Carillion, whose 120-day payment terms were highlighted by the parliamentary inquiry into its collapse.
Firms signed up to such terms were able to access their money sooner through an early payment facility, which Mr Reynolds said he once supported.
He said: “I remember sitting in with clients, major clients, and saying, ’Carillion are fantastic, Carillion have got this payment protection system that says they will pay on 30 days if you […] give up two or three per cent for the benefit of getting your money early’. Well, that is absolutely wrong.”
Last month the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy launched a call for evidence on tackling late payments.
The department’s small business survey in May found construction companies were more frequently hit by late payments and were the most likely to report it as being a “major obstacle” to growth.
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