Adopting NEC best practice

The recent launch of NEC4 provides an opportunity to debate the future role of the NEC users in promoting best practice in the use of NEC contracts. 

I have been involved with the NEC Users’ Group – including as chairman and president – for 10 years now. Over that time I have seen many users being extremely proactive in spreading the NEC message and providing feedback to improve the contracts. Indeed, many of the changes introduced in NEC4 were the result of users’ contributions and ideas.

Benchmarking NEC best practice

The question I am now asking is, should users up their game? Should they consider introducing systems for identifying and promoting NEC best practice within their organisations? Such a system would involve drawing up a set of criteria against which they could benchmark and demonstrate NEC best practice. 

A key criterion, for example, would involve using NEC contracts without amendment – and only making use of Z clauses to address matters that are highly specific to user needs.

Amended contract is not NEC

The suggestion has not come out of the blue. It builds on a conversation I have been having with a user who is very passionate about NEC and firmly believes its impact is being lost to a degree by some poor practice. He is particularly critical of the abuses associated with amendments and Z clauses, which worsen as one travels along the supply chain. 

NEC does not, of course, endorse the misuse or abuse of its products. Using the NEC name or logo without consent is an infringement of the intellectual property rights of NEC. Furthermore, NEC will take action against any organisation attempting to pass off an amended NEC contract as if it was the genuine article.

Making NEC best practice a reality

I therefore propose that all NEC users look at introducing a system for assessing and monitoring NEC best practice within their organisations. They can consider developing a set of simple criteria against which they can benchmark themselves – for example, using unamended NEC contracts and ensuring all procurement and site staff (including consultants) are properly trained and/or accredited in NEC use. 

Achieving NEC practice will be a little easier for NEC4 users given that it reduces the need for Z clauses on issues such as confidentiality and collateral warranties. But best practice can be readily achieved under both NEC3 and NEC4 – and the NEC office provides a full range of support, training and accreditation services for both to help you make it happen. 
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