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Do contractors need a ‘witness protection’ programme?

Could the new consultation on setting up a facility for reporting firms that don’t pay their invoices in a timely manner lead to repercussions?

The Professional Contractors’ Group certainly thinks so. The trade industry body, which represents tens of thousands of freelancers and contractors, said recently that there needs to be some protections put into place for whistleblowers in order to prevent larger, more powerful firms from exacting revenge on small contract workers that report them to the government for late payments.

The PCG’s idea of a so-called ‘witness protection’ programme, which would involve making the reporting process anonymous, has been met with approval from several industry experts. Personally I think it’s not a bad idea at all, especially since a goodly number of large firms tend to throw their weight around a bit too much from time to time, especially when it comes to smaller firms – and let’s face it: you can’t get much smaller than a self-employed contractor.

For what it’s worth, late payments from clients can end up financially crippling a sole trader. These large companies – especially the multinational mega-corporations that quite often don’t give a whit for the small fry they outsource work out to – are notorious for stringing the self-employed along, almost as notorious they are for ducking their tax responsibilities through offshore tax avoidance schemes.

Most small businesses feel impotent and powerless at the might of a large firm that drags its feet in paying for goods provided or services rendered, so it’s obvious that a public shaming database for those companies that don’t feel like they need to honour their obligations in a timely manner is necessary. There’s definitely a downside to this plan in that if these large firms know who blow the whistle on their heinous behaviour it could lead to negative repercussions for the sole trader that shines the light on their foot-dragging, which is why I think such a ‘witness protection’ programme is absolutely necessary.

I can only hope that the Government heeds the words of the PCG and decides to make the reporting mechanism for turning in recalcitrant clients anonymous. It’s a shame that we have to worry about repercussions, but we’re dealing with firms that think nothing about stringing along contractors for weeks or even months before finally paying their debts, so it’s obvious small businesses need more protections than they’re currently getting right now isn’t it?

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