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What is a Subcontractor Agreement?

A Subcontractor Agreement is a legal agreement between a primary contractor and workers (subcontractors), which sets out the rights and obligations of both parties for the sake of the project completion.

The primary objective of a Subcontractor Agreement is to inform both parties about their obligations regarding the project, and their rights when any unfortunate circumstances occur, and to assure work and task completion.

Through a Subcontractor Agreement, one can assign a part of the obligations and tasks under a contract to another party known as a subcontractor, which can be common in areas or fields that requires working on complex projects, such as construction and information technology.

Who is a Subcontractor?

A subcontractor is a company or person whom a general contractor (or primary contractor, or main contractor) hires to perform a specific task as part of an overall project and normally pays for services provided to the project. Subcontractors are hired by the project’s general contractor, who continues to have overall responsibility for project completion but enter a contract with a subcontractor that specifies their limited tasks that are mostly related to their profession.

What is the purpose of the Subcontractor Agreement?

Hiring subcontractors gives more freedom to the business instead of hiring a full-time employee because of the less legal formalities and financial burden associated with it. A Subcontractor Agreement helps any business to finish the work on time by hiring required subcontractors for a specific time period. Hiring a subcontractor also helps in increasing productivity because subcontractors have specialized knowledge in their respective fields.

What should be included in a Subcontractor Agreement?

These are the basic things that should be included in a Subcontractor Agreement to make it work effectively.

Scope of work: a well-defined scope of work is crucial since the scope of work is what a subcontractor is hired to perform. A broad scope of work is hard to navigate and can be hard for subcontractors to complete. This section should also include the required labor and essential materials that are needed for the completion of the project.

Supply chain: Another crucial element to note in a Subcontractor Agreement is the supply chain and other operational risks. The supply chain or owner specified items aren’t always within the subcontractor’s control and in those cases, it shouldn’t be the subcontractor’s fault. Reading and negotiating the subcontractor agreement will help prevent supply chain risk issues.

Defense and indemnification: It is one of the important clauses in the Subcontractor Agreement which states that a subcontractor should agree to defend and indemnify the contractor in case of any loss or damage made by the subcontractor.

Warranty and insurance: A Subcontractor Agreement should specify the warranty on work. This section of the agreement does benefit both parties and set out their obligations and rights regarding any unfortunate events that may happen during the project.

Payment and compensation: When paying subcontractors for their work, there is more than paying their invoices. Other outcomes from their work like customer satisfaction, delivery, and variations need to be considered. A compensation section can be beneficial for both parties and can be included by setting out the basis of compensating the subcontractor and the compensation calculations.

Confidentiality: You need to ensure that both parties are aware of any private information they encounter while working for clients and also treat information about the business as confidential.

Termination: This element focuses on the rights of both parties when the agreement is terminated. A constant breach of contract might lead to termination so a proper responsibility of both parties should be clearly written down to avoid any confusion and resolve disputes in case arise in the future.

What expenses can I claim as a subcontractor?

Expenses that subcontractors can claim are:

  • Materials, equipment, tools, etc.
  • Travel costs.
  • Protective gear and clothing.
  • Communication, phone, and stationery costs. 
  • Administrative costs

Difference between a subcontractor and an employee?

Some of the key differences between a subcontractor and an employee are:

  • Taxes: While an employee has their taxes deducted by their employers, a sub-contractor is responsible for their own taxes and they pay it themself.
  • Supplies: Employees are provided with supplies and equipments by the employer. Sub-contractors manage their own supplies and equipments as required.
  • Work hours: Sub-contractors set their own working hours while employees have fixed work hours set by the employers.
  • Pay and benefits: Subcontractors set their own wages but are not entitled to benefits such as paid leaves and health insurance. Also, they are paid after the job is finished. On the other hand, employees have a fixed wage as provided by employers but are entitled to benefits. They also receive regular payments at the end of a certain time period.
  • Time duration: Sub-contractors are hired for a certain period of time. It is not always regular and consistent. Employees can be hired for longer periods of time and on a more permanent basis. 


A Subcontractor Agreement is an important legal document defining the terms of a business-related agreement between a contractor and a subcontractor, which requires specific information relating to the terms of the agreement in clear, concise, and legally applicable language, to protect both parties from unfair risks that may arise.

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