Has your subcontract got your back?

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  1. Compared with Canada in respect of contract law and main contracts and subcontracts the UK is in the “dark ages”. The Canadian Construction Association has a range of standard forms of contracts that are used throughout the industry. Very few contractors and subcontractors operate without using these standard forms of contract. But then the Canadian Construction Industry have a very strong industry association those membership includes contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and service providers. The British industry should take a serious look at the Canadian model if ever they are going to sort out the messy system they current have.

  2. I have encountered back-to-back clauses in my work and then requested a copy of the main or head-contract only for this to be refused on grounds of commercial sensitivity or for my request to be ignored. Whilst I can understand why main contractors like the comfort of back-to-back clauses with this comes responsibilities such as being willing to share the contract with all subcontractors invited to price the works and ensuring that the contract administration process gives all parties time to make decisions well within deadlines rather than just head contractor. I would suggest that what is at question here is as much a question of law as a question of culture and practice.

  3. Roger, the UK construction industry has a plethora of standard forms of contracts (at last count over 140 from different publishers). Roughly 80% of projects operate under these standard forms of contract. Often it is the messy end of the remaining 20% that end up before the court, so you only see that slice of life.
    Paul, the issue is not whether main contracts like the comfort of ‘back-to-back contracts’ (which of course they do) but why they aren’t prepared to accept the risks of the works they have agreed to and feel the need to pass those risks entirely down to their subcontractors. If a main contractor does not want to accept risk, then perhaps change industry?!

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