Builders at work

To ensure your site remains safe, you need to check everyone working there is adhering to health and safety regulations and that the correct insurance is in place on both sides. You could be held accountable if an accident occurs, even if it was not your fault.

FMB Insurance gives guidance on the difference between the two types of subcontractors and what you need to check and put in place before they start work on your site.

Bona fide subcontractors

Bona fide subcontractors (BFSC) are generally deemed to be contractors that work without direction from you. As long as they are not working under your control, they have their own legal liabilities and a responsibility to insure  themselves. In this instance there is no need to include them in your count of employees.

A true BFSC will provide their own tools and materials, be responsible for their own health and safety, including having their own liability insurance in place and will typically be paid by invoice for a job as opposed to an hourly rate.

They will work independently, without supervision and set their own hours. They are generally self-employed such as plumbers or electricians.

Site managers should always check that any BFSC working on their site has their own up-to-date insurance in place. You should also regularly review their schedule to ensure the correct levels of cover are determined. Ideally the level of cover should match your own policy requirements.

If a BFSC does not have their own liability insurance in place, then you could be held responsible if an incident occurs whilst they are working on your site. Always ask for proof of their certificate.

Labour-only subcontractors

Labour-only subcontractors (LOSC) are legally considered as employees and should be treated as employees for the purpose of insurance cover. Generally, they work under your direction and supervision but only on a temporary basis rather than permanently. They do not provide their own tools or materials. You determine the hours they work and direct where and how they work. This means that you are responsible for insuring them under your own liability insurance policy.

Even if you only have one employee working for you, you are required by law to have employers’ liability insurance. If an incident occurs or if they suffer a work-related illness such as asbestosis or hearing loss and they are not covered, you may be held liable.

Always check with your insurance company that you have the right level of cover for the correct number of people.

Need advice?

If you have any questions regarding subcontractors’ insurance or require further information about any FMB Insurance policies, call our friendly team on 01353 652760 or visit

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