Delayed payments can cause cash flow problems for locum GPs, and chasing these can be a real headache.
Delays can often be an oversight, or are sometimes a reflection of a non-efficient payment manager. Practice managers may also “sandbox” the payment if they have to raise a query on any unexpected items (e.g. charging for extra time or travel expenses without prior agreement).
Payment terms and rules of engagement are ideally agreed before starting work and your invoice should state when the payment is due. However, if the terms are not agreed upon then you end up defaulting to the 16th March 2013 legislation that states:
“Public sector must pay within 30 days and private sector within 60 days”
If you have not been paid, do not stress, as legislation is on your side and there are a lot of tools at your disposal. Follow these step and you are almost always guaranteed to be paid the amount that you are due.
Follow these steps:
- 1 week overdue:
Send a friendly email reminder
Send a friendly email. In most cases, surgeries will want to keep their locums happy (especially the good ones). A simple reminder using friendly terms will often be the ticket to getting paid.
Include phrases such as, “I hope you are well, just hoping you can give me an update on the invoice I sent you which is overdue? I have attached it again for you, hope to hear from you soon.”
- 2 weeks overdue:
Personal phone call – “The charm offensive”
If you do not hear back in a week or so, then it is time follow up with a phone call. Sometimes people are on holiday and have not seen your correspondence, and so a phone call will usually put you back at the top of the list! At the end of the call make sure you both agree upon a date by which they are going to send the payment.
- 4 weeks overdue:
A formal letter – “British forward attack”
It’s likely you will start feeling more than a little irritated by now, and that’s natural – but you need to try to keep calm and detached. Even if you have resolved never to work at that surgery again there is no need to go nuclear. It is, however, time to escalate to the next level.
You will need to write a letter to the surgery stating that you are still waiting for the payment, and that despite repeated efforts to chase the payment it is still outstanding. You are now considering legal action and would appreciate that the payment be settled immediately within 7 days of receipt.
Avoid emotional statements such as, “I will see you in court “ or “you’ve messed with the wrong locum this time!” Keep things civil and polite but assertive, and you should keep a copy of the letter as evidence in court if necessary, as well as the recorded delivery postage receipt.
You can also begin to add late payment charges and daily interest calculated at 8% above the Bank of England rate (see the working example at the bottom). These amounts are set by late payment legislation. Personally, I wouldn’t utilise this tactic, but it is an option.
- 6+ weeks overdue:
Before you press the red button, you need to weigh whether you want to proceed or just write off the debt. If the amount owed is less than a few hundred pounds and the stress of chasing it is causing you angst, then you may wish to take a deep breath and let it go for the sake of your peace of mind.
Life is full of battles, and you’ve got to pick the ones you want or need to fight for.
If you have decided to go for it then the next step is lawyer up.
1. Make a money claim online using the government debt recovery service (this takes about 30 minutes). There is a small fee to pay; usually 5% of the outstanding amount.
2. Engage a solicitor. Asking a solicitor to send a letter for late payment should cost you £50+VAT or less. Remember, the cost will rack up depending on the next stages.
3. Debt collection service. You want to engage a reputable firm if you elect to go with a debt collection agency. The cost is typically 10-20% of the outstanding fee, on a no win, no fee basis.
Nb – Elocum24 Have a built in systems that allow you to create, track and chase debtors.
Late payment penalty and daily interest charges
If you choose, you can add the phrase, “we have a statutory right under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013 to add interest on the outstanding amount, which equates to £ amount, the total amount outstanding is now £ amount.”
The interest you can add after 30 days is 8% above the Bank of England interest rate = 8.25% (until Dec 2017).
For example, if you are owed £1,000: The annual interest would be £82.50 (1,000 x 0.0825 = 80). Divide £82.50 by 365 to get the daily interest: about 22p a day (80 / 365 = 0.22). After 35 days this would be £5.63 (35 x 0.22 = £7.70)
You can also add a late payment charge, depending on the size of the debt.