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The Difference Between 'Labour Only Subcontractors' and 'Bona Fide Subcontractors'

Updated: Mar 20

Two types of subcontractors

Subcontracting is a common practice in many industries, especially in construction, where projects often require specialised skills and resources beyond what the main contractor can provide alone. Within subcontracting, two common terms you might encounter are 'labour only subcontractors' (LOSC) and 'bona fide subcontractors' (BFSC). While they may sound similar, they serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics which make a big difference to insurers offering and pricing terms.

Labour Only Subcontractors


Labour only subcontractors are typically hired to provide labour services exclusively. This means they contribute their workforce but not the materials or equipment needed for the project. They are usually responsible for executing specific tasks or parts of a project.


The primary characteristic of labour only subcontractors is that they do not assume any risk or responsibility beyond the direct provision of labour. The main contractor retains control over the project's materials, scheduling, and overall management. Labour only subcontractors are often paid based on time worked or a fixed rate for completing specific tasks.


Bona Fide Subcontractors


On the other hand, bona fide subcontractors are more comprehensive partners in a project. Unlike labour only subcontractors, they not only provide labour but also supply their own materials, equipment, and expertise to complete a specific portion of the project. Bona fide subcontractors often operate as independent businesses and may have their own contracts with suppliers and clients.


Bona fide subcontractors typically have more autonomy and responsibility within their assigned scope of work. They may have control over scheduling, quality assurance, and managing their own subcontracted workforce if necessary.


Key Differences


The primary distinction between labour only subcontractors and bona fide subcontractors lies in the scope of their involvement and the extent of their responsibilities:


  • Scope of Work - Labour only subcontractors focus solely on providing labour services, while bona fide subcontractors deliver a broader range of services, including materials and equipment.

  • Responsibility - Labour only subcontractors have limited responsibility and control, primarily following instructions from the main contractor. Bona fide subcontractors have more autonomy and responsibility for managing their portion of the project.

  • Risk - Labour only subcontractors bear minimal risk, as they are not responsible for procuring materials or equipment. Bona fide subcontractors assume more significant risks related to the delivery of materials, adherence to specifications, and project timelines.


It's crucial for the insurance policyholder, often the main contractor, to grasp the intricacies of their subcontractor engagements and their statuses. This understanding dictates the extent of liability a policyholder bears for subcontractor injuries and actions on a project.


Insurers factor a subcontractor’s status in when assessing and pricing an insurance policy hence, policyholders must discern between BFSC and LOSC to secure the correct insurance terms for the project. Depending on the types of contractors used, it may be that a lower insurance premium is quoted.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only. While we strive to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the content, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the information, products, services, or related graphics contained in this post. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. Additionally, views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Simcox Brokers Ltd.


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