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Huffpost UK increases payment terms to 60 days amid ‘cash flow’ issues

Freelances paid outstanding money after Press Gazette enquiries made.

By Bron Maher

Buzzfeed-owned Huffpost has belatedly paid out thousands of pounds to freelances in the UK after “cash flow problems” at the business left some journalists chasing money for months.

The issues followed a change to Huffpost’s payment processes that mean its freelances must now wait 60 days between submitting their invoices and receiving payment.

Two Huffpost UK freelances told Press Gazette that despite the long invoicing period they were still not paid on time, with one only receiving some of the money they were owed after sending a “letter before action” signalling their intent to instruct a lawyer. Press Gazette understands that others are in the same boat.

Press Gazette first contacted Buzzfeed about the issue on Monday 15 January and Press Gazette understands the late payments have now been made, although as of Tuesday freelances were still waiting on payments invoiced less than 60 days ago.

Huffpost increased its invoicing process length from 30 to 60 days in September. One affected freelance told Press Gazette that, when they were told of the change, their reaction was “this is quite a long time but fine.

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“Because I was like: ‘Well at least if it’s 60 days, they’ll definitely pay you on the 60th day, because that’s a really long time to get it sorted out!’”

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They said they ceased doing shift work for Huffpost in December after being told by an editor the title was “having some cash flow problems” and that it “wouldn’t be fair for us to carry on commissioning work without knowing when we’re going to pay you”.

Thanking them for being up front, the freelance asked for confirmation they would be paid their outstanding invoices once they came due.

“And they basically went: ‘No, we can’t confirm that.’”

The freelance had begun filing invoices at the end of September and so should have received their first payment in late November, but in the event they were only paid £1,500 they were owed after sending their letter before action in late December.

Another £1,500 the freelance is owed is set to come due in the next few weeks under the terms of the contract. But they said their previous interaction “doesn’t inspire much confidence that my remaining two invoices are going to be paid on time without a letter before action, which is just ridiculous.

“How am I meant to pay my rent?”

“It’s the fact that I’ve had to chase and chase and chase them. I feel bad for being like – ‘Sorry, please can you pay me in the terms that you’ve set out in your contract?’”

They added: “It’s a real shame, because I really liked the editors that I was working immediately under and I liked the content that I was getting to write. It’s just absolutely disgraceful, the way that they’ve treated their freelancers.”

‘I don’t know who the hell can wait 60 days for a payment’

Another freelance had a similar reaction to the increased invoicing period.

“I don’t know who the hell can wait 60 days for a payment,” they told Press Gazette. “But they very much convinced me that it was literally just a logistics thing, they’re just changing it to be more American-style and that it wouldn’t really be an issue after the first 60 days because thereafter I could submit an invoice once a week.”

They did several months of shift work and should have begun receiving weekly payments of £600 to £750 a week from early September. When they were not paid at that point, the freelance began emailing the finance team, who they said told them their payment would be a priority the following week.

“And obviously I kicked off. That’s totally unacceptable. We have a written agreement, all the invoices are signed, all saying that ‘we will pay within 60 days’. There’s no wiggle room for that. And they were just so blasé about it.”

After a few days of hearing nothing, the freelance said they were emailed by Huffpost UK editor-in-chief Cate Sevilla and told the company could no longer pay to keep its roster of freelances, although Press Gazette understands a small number remain with the newsroom.

The unpaid freelance said that after multiple attempts to chase the money the “whole company started ignoring me”.

They were occasionally paid parts of what they were owed, they said, but the company also failed to make payments on days it said it would, and none of the payments they received equalled any of the amounts invoiced for.

What caused the late payments?

Late payments to freelances are notoriously common. Press Gazette itself was criticised on X/Twitter this month for not having paid a freelance five months after they contributed a piece that was in part about late payments to freelances.

Press Gazette apologised to the freelance concerned for the late payment, which was caused by an administration error, and the individual has now been paid.

However, 60 days is an unusually long payment processing window. Unless a contractor agrees a different payment date (as the Huffpost freelances did in their contracts), their customer is required by law to make payment within 30 days of receiving an invoice.

Late payments may occur for numerous purposes, including human or technical error or the publisher itself awaiting late payment from clients.

The most recent quarterly results for Buzzfeed Inc, for the three months ending 30 September, show the company ended the period with cash and equivalents of $42.5m, down $13.3m from the start of 2023.

Buzzfeed bought Huffpost from Verizon Media in November 2020. When Buzzfeed News was shuttered in April last year the company’s chief executive, Jonah Peretti, said Huffpost was profitable and would remain open as the company’s sole news brand.

Huffpost declined to provide a comment for publication.

[Read more: From unlimited oysters to redundancies: WTF happened at Buzzfeed in the UK?]

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Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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