Lawyers are warning contractors to review their construction contracts in preparation for a possible swine flu pandemic

It is believed the construction industry is particularly vulnerable in parts of the world where labourers live in communal accommodation, such as labour camps in the UAE.

The threat is of legal wrangles over whether an outbreak entitles a contractor to an extension of time. Georgina Reynard, a senior associate at Pinsent Masons’ Dubai office, said: “Managing the risk of swine flu at an early stage might save significant time and cost.

“Parties to a contract should clearly identify which of them bears the risk if the pandemic strikes down a workforce, and should take all steps to minimise the spread of the virus.”

Reynard warned that swine flu could be deemed a “foreseeable” event, which could affect contractors’ entitlement to relief.

Parties should clearly identify which of them bears the risk if the pandemic strikes down a workforce

Georgina Reynard, lawyer

In the case of contracts that have already been signed, there may be pressure from one party to negotiate additional clauses covering swine flu.

However, Rupert Choat, a partner at CMS Cameron McKenna, said contractors should be wary of employers dumping risk. He said: “If contracts are changed, contractors should be aware that employers could insist the contractor bear the risk.”

Lawyers are recommending that firms take out insurance policies to protect themselves against the risks of swine flu.

The most recent statistics showed that, in the week to 20 August, cases of swine flu increased globally by 10% and deaths by 24%. The pattern of historical pandemics suggests that a more virulent form may appear in the autumn.