Reports and Studies

Liability in subcontracting processes in the European construction sector

12/11/2008
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The report underlines the significant differences that exist between the various national liability regulations in place in the eight Member States under consideration. The varying legal tradition and industrial relations cultures in the countries covered mean that research results are highly specific to each national situation and that few elements are transferable.

Overall, the liability rules were deemed to be effective in achieving the specified objectives. Preventive tools offering incentives to clients or principal contractors through the limitation of or exemption from liability were largely considered a positive element of successful liability regulations. Likewise, developing simple, accessible and understandable norms was identified as essential in the effective implementation of the regulations and in guaranteeing compliance. Moreover,
the regulations should not be altered, amended or modified too frequently to avoid confusion.

The involvement of the social partners in the development and implementation of the arrangements has proved to be salient feature of most of the measures categorised as ‘good practice’. One possible way to diminish abuses at the lower ends of the subcontracting chain might be to further develop corporate or sector-based social responsibility initiatives.

These could easily be developed through the normal social partner channels of consultation and negotiation, thus leading to largely binding agreements.


The current study may serve to facilitate the exchange of experiences and good practice among Member States on the subject of liability in subcontracting processes. At the same time, it may enable social partners and legislators to become better informed in relation to an increasingly important policy debate.