The Times has reported that small companies bear the brunt of a culture of late payment of commercial debts, with businesses paying their smallest suppliers an average of 30 days after their biggest trading partners.

An analysis of almost 11 million invoices totalling £24.6 billion found that the problem of late payments was rife throughout supply chains, although big companies suffer least.

Those with the biggest bills were paid on average less than a day late, according to the study by Previse, a financial technology company. In contrast, suppliers invoicing for less than £10,000 a year did not even have their bills processed until 35 days after they were received by the customer.

With most companies requesting payment terms of 30 days, this means many small business invoices are overdue before they have been processed.

Big suppliers, on the other hand, have their invoices prioritised, taking just three days to be processed, while also being paid faster after being approved.