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I Can't pay staff wages - What can I do?

9th November, 2020
Robert Moore

Written ByRobert Moore

Marketing Manager


Rob has over a decade of experience in web and general marketing. He has extensive knowledge of the Insolvency sector and has helped many worried directors with their questions.

Rob is now working with the Board at KSA Group Ltd to develop strategic marketing programmes to support the business plan and drive more company rescues.

Robert Moore
  • Firstly answer…Why can I not pay my staff?
  • Do I have any options to try and resolve this?

For any company, its staff are the lifeblood. You cannot run without them – operations would come to a halt, you would not be able to take on any new work and in all honesty, the business would fall. You must have reliable staff in order to keep the business going.

However, for them to be reliable, they must be able to rely on you and receive that hard-earned wage which they put in all the effort for! Ensuring staff are paid, on time, should be a priority. But…it becomes an issue if you fear you cannot pay the staff wages at the end of the month. If this is the case, it is likely insolvency is looming! Action must be taken immediately.

When this nightmare becomes reality, what can you do? Do you have options? Here we explore further…

Firstly answer…Why can I not pay my staff?

Simply put, the answer is cashflow! The company does not have enough cashflow to operate properly thus wages cannot be paid.

Remember a company can be making profit on paper but if the money is not in the bank then cashflow problems arise.   This may be short term, for example due to seasonality. However, it may also be longer term. This could be due to bad debts or a loss of large contracts. Late payments from clients could also be a factor.  This means that the company will always be trying to “catch up”.

Do I have any options to try and resolve this?

It depends on whether cashflow problems are short or long term.

Short term

If the cashflow issue is short term, explain to the staff and update them of the situation. You have got some solutions:

  1. Talk to staff and explain to them the situation truthfully. Ask them to wait for payment, explaining how you believe the business will be able to pay. Hopefully, the response will be positive and aligned to support the business. You should do this as soon as you realise you are unable to pay their wages, giving them a pre-warning, so it does not become a nasty shock on pay day. It is more likely to have the situation understood and accepted, as you would be seen to be taking responsibility and being fair, giving employees the chance to find alternative plans for obtaining money to fund that periods living expenses.  A word of caution.  This is most likely to work in very small businesses of less than 10 employees.  In larger businesses staff are less close to management and are less likely to be supportive.
  2. Take out a loan. This could be from a family member, friend or bank, and can be either short term or long term. The most appropriate would be to take out a short-term loan as this carries less risk for the business. It is likely in this scenario that any loan will need to be personally guaranteed so think hard about the risks. Be aware that an option here is to apply for a Bounce back loan to support you. However, this should only be the case if you can be sure the business is viable going forward.
  3. Withhold payment, temporarily of course, from a non-mission critical supplier or HMRC.  This is known as robbing Peter to pay Paul and should be a last resort.
  4. Look to invoice financing i.e. discounting and factoring. A factor of the cashflow issue may be late payment from clients. Invoice financing allows you to immediately receive a set percentage of your unpaid invoices. Note: a small fee is involved here but, if it means you can cover your staff wages as a result, then it is most certainly worth considering.

Long term

Ultimately, when you fail to pay your employee wages, they become a creditor.  The best option here, is to speak with a licensed insolvency practitioner about the following insolvency proceedings which may be applied:

  • Company Voluntary Arrangement: Often this allows a business to continue trading without interruption. Deals are made with creditors about any outstanding liabilities – some of the debt may be written off or renegotiated to monthly instalments.
  • Administration: Employees are entitled to claim for wage arrears and unpaid holidays. If the business ends up being sold through the administration process, employees’ existing contracts will be transferred over via TUPE. The new company will become responsible for handling any wage arrears and preserving the current T&Cs of employment.
  • Liquidation: If the business proves unsustainable, you pay put your company into a Company Voluntary Liquidation. This ends its life. In this case, employees are made redundant. The right exists for them to claim redundancy and other statutory entitlements such as arrears of wages.

All in all, the most important thing is to communicate with employees and keep them aware. You should also be sure to get advice and seek help early on. So, talk to us to see how we can help.  If you can’t pay the wages then the business is insolvent and as a director you have a duty to the creditors.  Call us on 0800 970 0539 today.

Man with umbrella

What Is A Winding Up Petition By HMRC or Other Creditor

A winding up petition is a legal notice put forward to the court by a creditor. The creditor petitions to the court if they are owed more than £750 and it has not been paid for more than 21 days. The application, in effect, asks the court to liquidate the company as they believe the company is insolvent.

What Is A Winding Up Petition By HMRC or Other Creditor

Notice of Intention To Appoint Administrators

A notice of intention to appoint administrators is when the company files a document to the court to outline that it intends to go into administration if a solution cannot be found to its immediate financial problems. It can be used as part of the pre-pack administration process as well as used to restructure a failing business to avoid its liquidation.

Notice of Intention To Appoint Administrators
Man with balloon

What Does Going Into Administration Mean?

Going into administration is when a company becomes insolvent and is put under the control of Licensed Insolvency Practitioners.  The directors and the secured lenders can appoint administrators through a court process in order to protect the company and their position as much as possible. Going Into Administration - A Simple Guide Administration is a very powerful process for gaining control when a company has serious cashflow problems, is insolvent and facing serious threats from creditors. The Court may appoint a licensed insolvency practitioner as administrator. This places a moratorium around the company and stops all legal actions.The administration must have a purpose and the Government encourages the use of company rescue mechanisms after administration. The 3 purposes (or objectives) of Administration Rescuing the company as a going concern. (Note: this purpose is to rescue the Company as opposed to rescuing the business undertaken by the Company.)Company rescue as a going concern – this is usually a  company voluntary arrangement. The company enters protective administration and is then restructured before entering into a CVA. The CVA would set out proposals for repayment of debts to secured, preferential and unsecured creditors. When the company has its CVA approved by creditors, then the administration process comes to an end after 28 days. Achieving a better result for the company's creditors This is as a whole than would be likely if the company was to be wound up (liquidation) See the differences between Administration and Liquidation.  This better result is usually obtained by selling the BUSINESS as a going concern to one or more buyers. The company and the debts are “left behind”. The better result may include securing transfer or employees under TUPE, as well as selling goodwill, intellectual property and assets. Controlling and then selling property/debtors. This is called realising assets. Then the administrator makes a distribution to one or more secured or preferential creditors, in order of creditors priority. Usually the business ceases trading and employees are made redundant.Only if the first two options are deemed unattainable, can the administrator use this third option.Under the administration option, it is possible for the company and its directors (or a creditor like the bank) to apply to the court to put the company into administration through a streamlined process.However, the law requires that any finance provider (like a bank or lender), with the appropriate security, is contacted and the aims of the administration be discussed and approved. The finance provider must have a fixed and floating charge (usually under a debenture) and the charge holder will need to give permission for the process to go ahead. Five days clear notice is required.  Be aware, though, that a secured lender can appoint administrators over a company without notice if it thinks its money is at risk.  So communication with the secured lender is essential.  

What Does Going Into Administration Mean?

What is Receivership?

in What is …? What is receivership?

Understanding Receivership: Receivership, also known as administrative receivership, is a legally sanctioned procedure where an entity, typically a lender like a bank, appoints a receiver. The primary role of this receiver is to "receive" and liquidate the company's assets, if necessary, to repay the lender. This process is particularly beneficial to creditors as it aids in the recovery of defaulted funds, potentially preventing the company from facing liquidation The introduction of a receivership simplifies the lender's task of securing owed funds in cases of borrower default.Receivership should not be confused with administration and a receiver can only be appointed by a holder of a qualifying floating charge created before September 2003. Changes to this procedure were brought in by The Enterprise Act 2002 which promoted company rescue and saving struggling businesses. Why would a company go into receivership?The company requires finance for its activities and borrows from a bank (or other secured lender). In consideration for providing the loan, the bank requires security. Normally the company will sign a debenture with a fixed and floating charge. This offers the bank security over the assets of the company. If the terms of the agreement are breached or the company does not conform to the bank's wishes, the charge holder can:Appoint investigating accountants to ascertain how secure or not the bank's debt is and determine the best route forward (not always receivership). Demand formal repayment of the loans without notice. Appoint a receiver to administer and receive the company's assets.The receiver has a duty to collect the bank's debts only,they are not generally concerned with the other unsecured creditors or shareholders' exposure.Receivership - A typical appointment Having borrowed against a business plan that has not worked, a company finds that it is suffering cashflow problems. In an effort to survive, the company reports its problems to the bank and the bank asks for more information on the problems the company faces. Struggling with the problems of firefighting, the directors find it difficult to produce the information. Often the accountancy and reporting systems are not robust and a lot of time is needed to work out where the company is going, what the depth of the problems is and the necessary reporting to the bank is delayed.As time goes by, the company's overdraft is constantly at its limit, because monies don't come in fast enough from customers. Clearly this should set alarm bells ringing at the company - it most certainly does at the bank. They call this ceiling borrowing, and take it as a sign that the directors are losing control.  When this happens the bank will review the account and will typically take some or all of the following steps: What the Bank will doThe bank will ask for a reduction in its exposure. It will ask for increased security from the directors or shareholders. Usually this takes the form of personal guarantees to support the security that the company has given through the debenture. It may ask for new capital to be introduced by the shareholders. Problem is though, occasionally, this only has the effect of reducing the bank exposure as the bank takes this cash to reduce the borrowing. It can ask for a new business plan from the directors, along with regular reporting. It may ask for the company to consider receivables finance (factoring) to remove its borrowing and move to a factor. Often the bank's own factoring company. If they are still not satisfied that the directors are in control and if the bank is concerned about its exposure it will ask for investigating accountants (or reporting accountants) to look at the business. Normally this is a large firm of accountants who send an insolvency practitioner (IP) into the business to ascertain:Is the business viable? Is the company stable? Does it have a long term future if the present difficulties can be overcome? Is the bank's exposure sufficiently covered in the event of a failure? In this report the IP calculates what the assets of the business are worth on a going-concern basis and in a forced sale scenario (or closure basis). Investigating accountants often recommend that the bank sticks with the business, but that the bank should limit any further borrowing to the fully secured variety - in other words the directors must secure it personally against property for example. If the IP thinks that the company is in serious risk of failure and that the banks may lose money in that event, he/she will usually recommend to the bank that they appoint a receiver or administrator. Usually the bank (bizarrely) requires the directors to "request the bank to appoint a receiver". This is face-saving, and designed to deflect criticism from the bank to the directors.At Company Rescue, we believe that it is wrong that the insolvency practitioner that carries out the investigation could also be the receiver - We think it is essential that his/her role as investigating accountant is limited to just that. However, fortunately most banks now agree that this is not a good approach. Once they are appointed what is the receiver's role and powers?A receiver will quickly ascertain what the prospects for business are and decide whether to sell some or all of the assets, the business as a whole, or to continue to trade whilst a better deal can be achieved. Because of the rules and case law, he may wish to get rid of the assets and staff as soon as possible. (They will have to adopt employment contracts 14 days after the appointment). They may remove directors and employees without impunity. They ultimately decides the way forward and will (often) not take advice from the directors. They must pay the preferential debts (employees claims for arrears of pay and holiday pay) first from any floating charge collections. If a deal is to be done with directors the receiver must first advertise the business and its assets for sale. They must conform to the tight rules and regulations governing receivership and report to the DBEIS. A receiver must investigate the conduct of the directors of the business and file a report with the DBEIS.Disadvantages of Receivership The company is rarely saved in its existing form. Its assets will be subject to "meltdown" ( most people know that in receivership or liquidation assets are sold at a knock down price), often jobs and economic activity are lost.The directors will typically lose their employment and any monies the company is due to them, and the company may cease to trade. In addition the director's conduct is investigated.From the creditors' perspective, it is unlikely that any unsecured creditors will receive any of their money back and often they lose a valuable customer. Clearly the cost of receivership can be very high and the bank has to underwrite the receiver's costs. Advantages of Receivership The bank can take control where directors have maybe lost control. The receiver also has power to act to save the business quickly. The bank can ensure that its exposure is (at least) not increased and hopefully recover all of its money. For directors, the advantages are that it mitigates the risk of wrongful trading and may crystallise a very difficult position allowing them to get on with their lives.Preferential creditors may see their debts repaid by the receiver.Still got questions? Click here for Receivership FAQs. If there are still unanswered questions contact us by email or call 08009700539.If your business is in trouble and the relationship with the bank is breaking down, we suggest that you look carefully at the guides in this site. Receivership may be an option. Work out the viability of the business - can you trim costs? Work out the problems, set out the position and have a meeting of directors. Decide if the business can continue but needs to be restructured or if just not viable then consider administration or if the company's lenders have a debenture pre-dating 2003 then receivership.Please call us on 020 7887 2667 (London) or 08009700539 to talk to an expert turnaround advisor if you would like to talk through your company's options.

What is Receivership?

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