Contract Departure Schedules: What Are They and What Should They Cover?


Departure Schedules Explained

The success of a project is largely tied to the content of the related contract. Often, when large principals or head contractors are involved, the proposed contracts are heavily weighted in favour of the principal/head contractor and border on unfair. It is critical that contractors or suppliers carefully review the proposed contract during the tender phase and negotiate any terms to protect their position and minimise potential risk.

Draft changes to the contract are usually proposed to the other party by way of a Contract Departure Schedule, which identifies the relevant clause and proposes amendments to the clause for the other party’s consideration.

Key Items raised in a departure schedule

In terms of risk management, the following items are key considerations and are matters typically raised in a Contract Departure Schedule:

  1. Proportionate liability – does proportionate liability apply under the Contract? Legislation in some states prohibits contracts from excluding the operation of proportionate liability.


  1. Limitation of liability – are there any limits to liability and carve outs to the limitation of liability provisions that may still pose a risk?


  1. Disclaimer for consequential loss – is there a disclaimer for consequential loss? If so, are there any carve outs that may still pose a risk?


  1. Liquidated damages – are there liquidated damages or general damages for delay? Are such damages capped? Generally, liquidated damages should be quantified and capped at the time of contract to give certainty to you about your potential liability and avoid future disputes.


  1. Defects liability period – what is the defect liability period? Are there any extension provisions and what does the extension apply to?


  1. Security – what is the proposed form and amount of security? What, if any, are the preconditions to the return of security?


  1. Payment – are there any preconditions to payment? What are the time frames for payment? Does the contract seek to amend or limit the operation of the relevant state or territory security of payment legislation?


  1. Variations – does the contract allow variations and what are the pre-conditions for a valid claim?


  1. Excusable/qualifying causes of delay – is there an ability to claim for extensions of time and claim delay damages? What is the procedure for making a claim? Are the timeframes proposed fair and reasonable? What are the circumstances that allow a right to claim for an extension of time? Are there rights to claim delay damages for excusable/qualifying causes of delay? Are those claims capped?


  1. Site issues – does the contract contain any warranties about the site and its condition? What does it say about liability for latent defects?


  1. Intellectual property – what does the contract say about ownership of IP and licensing? Who owns the IP and when and how can it be used, modified, revoked, transferred, or assigned?


  1. Health, safety, and environment – who is the principal contractor for the purposes of Work Health and Safety legislation? If a contractor is not assuming possession of the site, then it should not assume the role of principal contractor. This can vary from project to project.


  1. Title, risk and PPSR securities – when does title in the works performed or goods supplied pass? When does risk in the works/goods pass? Registering a PPSR security interest over goods supplied can offer protection if a head contractor/principal goes into administration or liquidation.


  1. Force majeure – what constitutes a force majeure event and what happens following an event?


  1. Suspension – does the contract allow claims following suspension of works/supply of goods?


  1. Termination for convenience – does the contract allow claims following termination i.e. for works performed to the date of termination plus committed purchases?


These are by no means the only aspects worthy of consideration. It is important the entire contract is carefully read and understood.

Construction and commercial contracts can be lengthy, complicated, ambiguous, and unfairly sided in favour of large contractors and the above are just some of the key issues that can arise. Keystone are specialists in construction and commercial law and can expertly review and prepare departure schedules to help contractors navigate the tender phase with confidence knowing their interests are protected to the fullest extent possible.