The need for recruitment industry business-start ups to consider outsourcing services such as invoice finance has been highlighted by research showing late payments affect nearly three-quarters of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

However, less than half have actually taken steps to deal with the problem, according to a study conducted by NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

UK businesses have invoices worth £15.7 billion that are more than 120 days in arrears and 71 per cent of SMEs in the country have suffered from late payments over the last 12 months.

Smaller businesses are worst affected by the situation and 235,000 claim that the time wasted chasing debt has greatly affected their operations.

According to Peter Ibbetson, chairman of small business at NatWest and RBS, bad debts and late payment of invoices "are endemic problems for UK businesses".

"What's concerning is that so few are making use of services from their bank to help alleviate the problem."

Specialist agencies offer services that can help companies deal with invoice finance, as well as back office requirements.

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