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By Roelf Nel (Director) and Michael de Freitas (Candidate Attorney).

The General Conditions of Subcontract (GCSC) for Construction Works First Edition (2018) has been drafted by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) for use with the General Conditions of Contract for Construction (GCC 2015). This article will explore important aspects of the GCSC that the subcontractor must be mindful of during the construction of the subcontract works, specifically the commencement of subcontract works, sub-subcontracting, the work’s programme and non-working times.

Commencement of subcontract works

Clause 5.3 of the GCSC stipulates that the subcontractor will begin carrying out the subcontract works once same has been instructed by the contractor, unless there is a legal or physical impossibility preventing the commencement of the subcontract works.

The contractor’s instruction is subject to the subcontractor providing the required documentation, as set out in the subcontract data. Should the subcontractor fail to provide the required documentation to the contractor within the number of days provided in the subcontract data, or if the documentation is found by the contractor to be unacceptable, Clause 9.2 of the GCSC enables the contractor to terminate the subcontract agreement.

If the subcontractor does not receive an instruction to commence carrying out the subcontract works or an instruction to resubmit the required documentation within seven days from the actual date of submission thereof, the commencement of the subcontract works will be regarded as the date on which the seven days expires. Therefore, the contractor is expected to either provide the subcontractor with an instruction to commence with the works or an instruction to resubmit the documentation if it was unacceptable. If the contractor fails to give either instruction, clause 5.3.3 allows the subcontractor to start the subcontract works after expiry of the seven days referred to above.


In terms of Clause 4.4. of the GCSC, the subcontractor shall not appoint a sub-subcontractor to perform the whole subcontract. Furthermore, unless there is a specific provision made, the subcontractor shall not sub-subcontract any part of the contract without prior consent from the contractor and any other party in terms of the main contract for which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld by the contractor.

Once the subcontractor has received prior consent from the contractor, it is crucial for the subcontractor to note that they will be held fully liable for the acts, defaults and negligence of any sub-subcontractor, and his/her agents or employees. Therefore, the actions of the sub-subcontractor will be regarded as the actions of the subcontractor. This holds the subcontractor accountable, which is to the benefit of the overall quality of the construction works.

The subcontract programme

The subcontract programme forms part of the documentation required to be submitted to the contractor in accordance with clause 5.3.1, before the commencement of the subcontract works. Clause 5.6 of the subcontract provides that the subcontractor must deliver an initial subcontract programme to the contractor as to how the subcontractor will carry out the works in order to meet the subcontract due completion date.

Should it become clear that the subcontract programme that was initially approved does not reflect the actual progress to meet the subcontract due completion date, the subcontractor must then deliver an adjusted subcontract programme to the contractor. It is therefore critical that appropriate thought and planning is applied when preparing the subcontract programme to ensure that the works are executed in accordance with both the requirements and constraints set out by the contract terms. If these aspects are properly recorded and monitored, then prospective delays may likely be eased and related disputes could be swiftly resolved.

The initial programme and all subsequent adjusted programmes must show the extent of the subcontract work that will be carried out including a detailed cash flow forecast, the subcontract commencement date, works commencement date, due completion date and the planned subcontract completion date. The subcontract programme must further include the sequence, timing and resources for carrying out the subcontract works, the events that influence the carrying out of the subcontract works including float, and the subcontractors time risk allowances.

After the subcontractor has submitted the initial or adjusted programme, the contractor must within seven days approve the programme or instruct the subcontractor to amend the programme with reasons as to why the programme was not approved. Should the contractor fail to either approve or instruct the necessary justified amendment/s, the submitted programme will be considered to be the approved subcontract programme on expiry of the seven day period.

Non-working times

In terms of Clause 5.8 of the subcontract, no subcontract works can be carried out between sunset and sunrise as well as on non-working times and special non-working days. The non-working times are stipulated in the subcontract data.

The exceptions to the above can be found in Clauses to Clauses of the GCSC, which state that the subcontract work may be carried out during non-working times and special non-working days where

  • the contractor provides written permission;
  • a specific provision is made in the subcontract;
  • it is customary to carry out the work in multiple shifts;
  • the work is unavoidable or necessary to save human life or property; or
  • for the safety of the subcontract works.

Should the subcontractor propose to carry out any work during non-working times, written notice along with supporting particulars must be provided to the contractor.


The GCSC for Construction Works First Edition (2018) has simple and concise wording which will aid in the understanding of the contract and assist the subcontractor to navigate GCC projects with greater ease. The subcontract agreement will help the GCC 2015 to remain relevant in the future by providing a standard forms subcontract to ensure uniformity in subcontracting under the GCC 2015.