Last edited 06 Dec 2019

Reasonable objection

[edit] Introduction

A reasonable objection to a state of affairs is to object to or refuse to agree to carry out a particular task under instructions or an order – and having valid reasons for doing so. For example, a person may object to being ordered to fight for their country on the grounds of being a pacifist.

[edit] Construction

In construction, risks abound and, in many cases, it is the contractor who has to shoulder them. Typically, contractors face risks such as:

This is why some contracts and sub-contracts (such as JCT contracts) can, in certain circumstances, allow the contractor / subcontracator to raise an objection, such as to a variation order, if they have reasonable grounds.

A typical example might be where the client (employer) selects a sub-contractor with particular expertise, while leaving responsibility for their performance with the main contractor. Where the selected subcontractor was not pre-named in the contract (and is therefore now post-named) the contractor is able to raise reasonable objection within a certain time limit (often 7 days).

The grounds upon which a contractor may raise reasonable objection include:

In the past, substantial variations that have changed the identity of the contract or even negated it completely have given contractors the right to reasonable objection, if an additional sum for the works could not be agreed on. However, this may no longer be as certain to succeed, thanks to a legal precedent from the 1990s.

In McAlpine Humberoak Limited v McDermott International, [1992] it was established that even in a situation where the extra works involved substantial changes, they did not necessarily alter or transform the identity of the contract. Therefore, the contractor (in this case for an offshore installation) was bound to the original contract and the objection overruled.

The 2016 JCT Standard Building Contract Without Quantities, clause 5.1.2, made clear that the right of reasonable objection relates to employers making changes to:

  • Site access.
  • Limitations on working space.
  • Limitations on working hours.
  • Changes to the specific order of the works.

Clause 5.1.1, made clear that the following allow a right of reasonable objection:

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