The Difference Between A Bona Fide And A Labour Only Sub-Contractor

The following should help you to determine between the different types of sub-contractor and whether Employers Liability Insurance is required.

Labour Only Sub-Contractors

Labour only sub-contractors generally work under the direction of the employer and they do not provide their own materials or tools or than small hand tools. They would be considered as employees for the purposes of an Employers Liability Insurance policy.

Bona-fide Sub-Contractors

Bona-fide sub-contractors generally work under their own direction and provide their own materials and tools. They should also take out their own Public Liability Insurance. Provided they are not working under your direction, have their own legal liabilities which they insure themselves, there is no need to include these in the count of employees.

In the event of an accident caused by the the sub-contractor in the course of executing their contract with you, the injured third party could take legal action against both the bona fide sub-contractor for causing the accident and you as the main contractor. The bona-fide sub-contractor’s own Public Liability insurance policy would cover them for their own legal liability, and your own Public Liability insurance would cover you in the event that you were found to be legally liable. Please note that your Public Liability policy would only cover you for your own legal liability arising from the incident. It would not cover the bona-fide sub-contractor’s liability, (hence the need for the bona-fide sub-contractor to have their own insurance in force). If, for whatever reason, the bona-fide sub-contractor’s policy is inoperative or has insufficient cover then the likelihood of the claim being directed against you is greatly increased. (From the third party’s perspective their would be little point in suing the bona-fide sub-contractor in those circumstances because the chances of them having sufficient funds to pay any significant compensation would be slim. Those with the insurance in force, and therefore the deepest pockets, would be drawn in to any action). It is for this reason that most Public Liability insurers make it a condition of their cover that whenever you enter in to a contract with a bona-fide sub-contractor you must check that they have Public Liability insurance in force with cover up to an indemnity limit at least equivalent to the limit provided under your own policy.

It is therefore imperative that whenever you enter in to a contract with a bona fide-sub-contractor, you must check that they have Public Liability cover in force for the type of activities they will be undertaking for you and that it will be in force for the duration of the period for which they will be undertaking the work. You must also check that the indemnity limit provided under their policy is at least as much as the limit provided under your own policy. If you do not do this, your own policy would be invalidated and you would therefore have to meet your own legal liability and associated legal costs out of your own coffers.

How to distinguish between a Bona-fide Sub-Contractor and a Labour Only Sub-Contractor

There are a number of factors to take into account when determining the status of a sub-contractor.

A worker would be regarded as a Labour Only Sub-Contractor (and would need to be covered for Employers Liability Insurance) if they meet all or most of the following criteria:

(1) They are paid by the hour, week or month 

(2) They are entitled to receive overtime pay or a bonus payment 

(3) They only supply their own small hand tools 

(4) They always have to do the work themselves 

(5) The main contractor can tell them at any time what to do, where to carry out the work or when and how to do it 

(6) They work a set amount of hours 

(7) The main contractor can move them from task to task

A worker would be regarded as a Bona-fide sub-contractor if they meet all or most of the following criteria:

(1) They undertake a job for a fixed price regardless of how long the job may take 

(2)They have a contract for the provision of services as opposed to a contract of employment 

(3) Within an overall deadline, they are able to decide what work to do, how and when to do the work and where to provide the services 

(4) They regularly work for a number of different people other than the main contractor 

(5) They have to correct unsatisfactory work in their own time and at their own expense 

(6) They hold their own Public Liability insurance in their own name. (Public Liability insurance is not a statutory compulsory form of insurance so it is possible that a sub-contractor may not have this form of insurance) 

(7) They pay the cost of all materials or supplies required for the work without being reimbursed 

(8) They are free to hire someone else to do the work or engage helpers at their own expense 

(9) They risk their own money 

(10) They provide or hire in the main items of equipment they need to do their job, not just the small tools that many employees provide for themselves.

© 2022 Choice Insurance Agency Ltd.

Choice Insurance Agency Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register ( under reference 300183. We are an Underwriting Agency working in partnership with key brokers around the UK to place quality business with our panel of leading insurers. Registered in England and Wales number 4420555. Registered office: Suite 3, 4a Southchurch Road, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS1 2NE.