Contracts – making sure the small print doesn’t leave you out of pocket

An estimated 2,000 construction related apprentices could be employed to help build the £42.6 billion HS2 high speed rail project – five times the number of apprentices employed on London’s Cross-rail project or the 2012 Olympic build.

The mammoth rail project, which is split into two phases, is due to commence in 2018, following a protracted public consultation process.

For the construction sector, HS2 means a wealth of projects which will soon be available for tender.

However, when gearing up for a special one-off project of this kind, there are potential pitfalls to be aware of.

Jeremy Sirrell, a compliance expert with Palmers, said: “It is important that companies who are intent on bidding tor a HS2 contract, do not get carried away by the promise of a lucrative contract.”

He went on to say: “As with all things, ‘the devil is in the detail’ and the small print of these contracts need to be gone through very carefully, to ensure compliance.

“Companies also need to be aware of any penalty clauses which may be different to the standard construction industry fines they might be familiar with. Ensuring that there is a ‘pipeline’ of available workers, in the event that your bid is successful, must not be overlooked. If the industry statistics are correct, there will be a lot of other construction companies, potentially chasing would-be apprentices and their availability and skills set all need to be factored in, before applying for a HS2 contract.”

Jeremy concluded: “We all remember what happened when a certain private security company successfully bid for the London Olympics contract – only to find that they could not recruit the staff they needed to fulfill the remit. A multi-million pound fine, a huge slump in company profits, the resignation of its chief executive and a resulting distrust in its brand – which to this day the company is battling to overcome – resulted from this fiasco.

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