Calls are growing for big business to stop treating small business like banks by paying invoices late - if necessary by regulation.
Accounting software company Xero, which every month tracks payment times using data from its customers, said it was time to put pressure on large enterprises to stop using small business for working capital.
"Cashflow is the biggest killer of small business," said managing director New Zealand and Pacific, Craig Hudson.
"The flow-on effect [of late payment] is more far-reaching than we think. We need to be able to put pressure on big business to be supporting small business, not treating them like a bank."
Hudson said the UK and US had voluntary codes that big business could sign up to, undertaking to pay for services and products within a certain number of days.
"I'd like to think big business would do something like that here rather than it be legislated."
Latest Xero data shows in April this year the average number of days that a small New Zealand business was paid late was 8.8 days. This was on 7, 14, 20, 30 and 90 day invoices. In April last year the average days late was 9.25.
Over the past 12 months, April was the 6th best month for late payments, sitting right in the middle when looking at the spread of data, said Xero.
Small Business Council chairman Tenby Powell said it was time larger corporates and businesses were "held to account". He "absolutely" supported the suggestion that payment times should be regulated.
"This is a really important subject. Small business are a critically important part of our economy. They employ people. They act as internal distribution networks and they provide products and services to regional New Zealand," said Powell, who also represents New Zealand on the Apec business advisory council.
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"What worries me is that some hold the view that if you're not an exporter it really doesn't matter. Not to be paid and treated in a way that large business appears to be treating them is simply unacceptable.
"Where the rubber hits the road is the ability to pay wages, or asking people to be unpaid for a period of time. There are many examples of small business owners not paying themselves to ensure bills are paid, in particular, staff wages."
Reports of chronically late payments to small business and commerce have also been concerning the Government.
In December Small Business Minister Stuart Nash and Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi, releasing a discussion document, said many small businesses did not have "a fair and healthy" relationship with their suppliers.
They said there was scope for a law change to address some of the issues, which included significant cashflow issues as a result of not being paid by other businesses for several months.
Submissions in response to the discussion paper "Protecting businesses from unfair commercial practices" closed in late February with 44 responses.
MBIE, the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, said ministers are considering policy options and expect to make announcements "in the coming months".
MBIE says small businesses are 97 per cent of all enterprises in New Zealand, employing 29 per cent of total employees. They contribute an estimated 26 per cent to GDP. The ministry classifies a small business as having fewer than 20 employees.
The problem of the big end of town making trade suppliers wait for payment was highlighted when Fonterra, the country's biggest company, imposed a 90-day invoice payment policy in 2016.
The policy created a storm of condemnation. The dairy company cancelled it last year, returning to the "industry norm" of paying small business on the 20th of the month following the end of the month in which an invoice is received.
Minister Nash was among those who welcomed Fonterra's change of heart.
Xero's Hudson said a major report due out in Australia soon would testify that the impact of late payment to small business was monumental.
"It slows down hiring, it slows down reinvestment in the business which ultimately hurts the economy and the environment."
He said more accountants and business owners were feeling the need to manage cashflow better so were making invoice payment times shorter.
But some big businesses were still treating smaller enterprises like a bank and "some of the terms have been pretty terrible".
"We think small business should be getting a better deal."
BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said late payment times were a significant issue for small business, but regulations to impose payment times would be too extreme.
It would be prudent for small businesses to protect their cashflow by charging a fee for late payment. Specifying late payment fees in advance in the contract for services would help set clear expectations for prompt payment, he said.
The Employers and Manufacturers Association said cashflow was a constant struggle for small businesses but the employer-manufacturer advocate group didn't support Australian-type regulation.
"Government and local government could probably lead this with a voluntary code," said general manager, advocacy and strategy Alan McDonald.
Powell said his small business council would soon be submitting a report to Cabinet.
"If accepted, it will be transformational for small business."
He declined to elaborate. The report would "touch on" late payments.
"The focus we have had, and I have had, is leveraging small business growth as part of a regional economic strategy."
Powell said when a large business withheld payment by eight to nine days over a month the impact on a small business was "huge".
"We anguish in New Zealand over productivity and we are very low among Apec nations.
"Part of the reason is we forget that we are not in fact a country of small to medium businesses. We are a country of micro and small businesses.
"The micro bit in global standards is very important to understand - it has a huge impact on our economy," said Powell.
A lot of work at Apec had been done on how small business could become part of the global value chain.
"A small business may not in its own right become an exporter. But it may be able to lock into a global value chain and create a lot of value for a larger business and as a consequence for itself, in exporting New Zealand products and services.
"If they're not paid on time and in full, it just breaks the chain."