What to do if you've not been paid on time.

Late payments and interest advice for directors and designers

Find out what to do if you've not been paid on time in our frequently asked questions.

I’ve not been paid on time after completing work: what are my options?

Awaiting payment as a freelancer can be stressful, especially if you’ve already nudged a client or collaborator. Members working in the sector sometimes express a fear of being assertive about late or non-payment, as they want to maintain good relationships with people and organisations they could work with again in the future. Nevertheless, you do have legal rights and protections.

What counts as a ‘late’ payment?

If you haven’t agreed a payment date at the point of engagement or in the contract, the law says the payment is late 30 days after whichever is the latest of either:

  • the customer (be that a producer, another creative who has booked you, school, local authority, theatre or other business) receives your invoice or
  • you have provided the service (for instance: a workshop, model box, your work as a director, your completed design)

You should check contracts you have signed carefully to see what payment terms you have signed up to – Equity can advise on this if needed. 

Can I charge interest on a late payment?

Yes. The amount you can charge is called ‘statutory interest’ and is calculated as 8% plus the Bank of England base rate. The rate you can charge is set every 6 months on 1st January and 1st July. You can find the current, and previous interest rates that you can charge on the Pay On Time website.

You can also charge a fixed sum for the cost of recovering a late payment on top of the interest; the rates are fixed and based on the amount of debt owed. These are as follows:

  • For debts under £1,000 the fixed charge is £40
  • For debts between £1,000 and £10,000 the fixed charge is £70
  • For debts over £10,000 the fixed charge is £100

If you want to add late payment charges and interest to the money you’re owed, you should send a new invoice to the client.

Example: If you are owed £1,500 which should have been paid on 1st February 2023, the interest rate which applies to this debt is 11.5% pa (Set 1st January 2023 and applies until 30th June 2023).

  • The annual statutory interest on this would be £172.50 (£1,500 x 0.115 = £172.50)
  • Divide £172.50 by 365 to get the daily interest: 47p a day (172.5 / 365 = 0.47)
  • After 80 days (eg. on 22nd April 2023) this would be £37.60 (80 x 0.47 = 37.6)
  • Add the fixed charge of £70
  • The total additional amount that you would be adding to your invoice at this point would be £107.60 (37.6 + 70)

What if they still don’t pay?

You can make a court claim – which you might have heard referred to as taking someone to small claims court.

You can find out more about court claims on the gov.uk website but get in touch with your Equity Official to see whether a claim would be suitable in your case, because when you have worked as a director or designer on an Equity agreement (so on the West End, with a UK Theatre venue/producer or an ITC Ethical Manager producer) we can intervene to get you your money without the need for a court claim.  

If you do end up needing to take a court claim, Equity can support you through this process.

Is there any wording I have to put on my invoices?

You don’t have to add anything to your invoice about late payment in order to be covered by the legislation. However, some people and businesses do add clauses that flag to clients that they will expect prompt payment.

If you do include wording on your invoices, double-check it is accurate.

For example:

NB: The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 applies to this invoice. If payment is not made within 14 days then interest will be charged at a rate of 8% above the Bank of England base rate at the date the payment fell due from that date until payment is made.

The statement includes the correct calculation for interest due, and references the correct part of the law.

However, according to the government’s own guidance, interest should be calculated from 30 days after the work was completed or invoice issued. You should also check the standard terms you have on your own invoices are agreed at the point of contract with the producer/venue you are working for.

Explore more

Decorative image: microphone on stage

Tax and National Insurance

Tailored information and advice on tax and national insurance for Equity members, particularly the self-employed.