Using contractors and subcontractors

Protect your business from rogue contractors


There are plenty of ways to get assurance about the competence and integrity of contractors.

Determine the competence of contractors

Factors that will help give you the confidence to deal with a contractor include:

Membership of trade or professional body

Current membership of a trade or professional association or other recognised body, including approved scheme operators under the TrustMark initiative for the domestic repair, maintenance, and improvement sector.

Licensed labour provider

Status as a licensed labour provider with the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority, if they supply workers to sectors within the fresh produce supply chain, ie agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering, or the processing and packaging of all fresh food, drinks, and other produce. It is an offence for someone without a licence to provide labour in these sectors, and it is illegal to enter into an arrangement with an unlicensed gangmaster.

Quality management standards

Ensure the contractor applies quality standards, such as British Standards and ISO standards for management systems. See quality management standards.


Recommendations from business or personal associates are often good indicators. Try to see for yourself examples of the contractor's previous work

Trade or professional associations

Many associations and bodies set membership criteria and minimum standards in areas such as:

  • quality systems and training
  • health and safety
  • environmental management
  • deliverables and technical capabilities
  • financial stability

Search for a trade association.

Quotes and following up on references

It is good practice to obtain at least three quotes or estimates. Make sure you understand the terms, any technical details, and any aspects that could change such as:

  • material prices that vary
  • overtime
  • night rates


Even if you get personal recommendations, follow up on all references provided. Tips when taking up a reference include:

  • letting the contractor know you are following up on a reference
  • contacting referees in good time so as not to delay your project start
  • asking specific questions about information the contractor has provided
  • asking about personal qualities, safety records, work standards, any legal case the contractor is or has been involved in
  • checking the authenticity of telephone references, and taking notes during the call

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) provides protective security advice when using contract staff. CPNI has also produced a good practice guide for employers on personnel security and contractors (PDF, 489K).