The guide 1. Plan

Simplify contracts

Simplify contracts to help speed up buying and appeal to the widest range of suppliers.

Why it’s important

Procurement contracts can be notoriously long and complicated, using repetitive and in some cases irrelevant terms and conditions. This can make them difficult to understand for both buyers and suppliers, particularly smaller suppliers who may not have access to legal advice.

Simplifying and standardising contracts will help:

  • reduce the time it takes for contracts to be drafted and approved
  • avoid disputes or misunderstandings later in the buying process
  • encourage more SMEs to apply once you share an opportunity

What it means

When writing contracts you should:

  • design contracts specifically for what you are buying - for example, what’s relevant to a digital and technology contract, may not be relevant to facilities management, marketing or office supplies
  • use plain language and avoid legal jargon; if you have to use legal wording explain what it means
  • avoid using negative or controlling terms where possible, for example: ‘termination’, ‘consequences’, ‘liabilities’, ‘penalties’, ‘dispute’ and so on
  • check the document with a lawyer to rule out any risks

You should also:

  • ensure that language is inclusive and accessible to a diverse range of users, for example those with special needs - check with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) before finalising the text
  • give clear guidance on when emergency conditions apply, that is an exceptional situation beyond the control of the buyer or supplier known as ‘force majeure’
  • use visual aids such as flowcharts and timelines to provide a summary and clarify what is stated in the text

Framework agreements

If you regularly commission a certain type of service, for example software development, you should consider setting up a framework agreement.

Framework agreements allow suppliers to sign up in advance to supply specific services for a limited period. Buyers and suppliers still need to sign a contract (a ‘call-off contract’) each time a service is bought, but these contracts are much shorter and faster to produce than traditional contracts.

Open contracting

All contracts should be published so that they are:

  • accessible to the public (ideally via the internet)
  • published in full except for legitimately sensitive information
  • in a digital, machine readable format

For more information visit the Open Contracting Data Standard website

Do's and don'ts


  • use plain language and avoid legal jargon; if you have to use legal wording explain what it means
  • use framework agreements to allow faster contracting
  • publish contracts online so that they are accessible to the public


  • do not use negative or controlling language; this is likely to discourage smaller suppliers from working with government
  • do not use language that is biased towards a particular gender or group