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Freelancing and Independent Contracting

Understand the distinctions and regulations for freelancers in Bermuda

Difference employees and contractors

In Bermuda, the Employment Act 2000 (EA 2000) sets the groundwork for employment rights and obligations. A critical part of this act is the differentiation between employees and contractors. Misclassification of workers can lead to significant consequences, making it essential to understand the legal distinctions.

Key Factors for Distinction

While there's no single definitive test, the Bermuda Ministry of Economy and Labour has outlined twelve key factors to consider. These factors primarily focus on the level of control exerted by the business and the worker's independence.


The degree of control a business has over the worker's activities is a significant indicator. Employees typically work under an employer's direction regarding how, when, and where they perform their duties. In contrast, contractors have more autonomy.

Tools and Equipment

Who provides the tools and equipment necessary for the job? Employers typically provide these resources to their employees, while contractors generally use their own.


How integrated is the worker into the business operation? Employees are often seen as an extension of the company, while contractors typically operate as separate entities.


Employees receive regular wages or salaries, while contractors are usually paid a set fee for completing a specific project or service.


Employers are responsible for providing certain benefits to employees, such as health insurance or vacation pay. Contractors are not entitled to these benefits and are responsible for their own.


Employers often provide training to new employees, while contractors typically require no such training to perform their services.


The existence of a written contract is not a definitive indicator. The substance of the agreement and the actual working relationship take precedence.

Importance of Proper Classification

Correctly classifying workers is crucial for both businesses and workers. Misclassifying an employee as a contractor can result in the worker losing out on important benefits and protections afforded by the EA 2000. On the other hand, businesses that misclassify workers may face legal repercussions and financial penalties.

Independent contracting

Independent contracting provides a flexible work arrangement for businesses and skilled professionals in Bermuda. It's important to understand contract structures, negotiation practices, and the industries where independent contractors are prevalent.

Contract Structures for Independent Contractors

A well-defined contract is essential for establishing a clear working relationship between the business and the independent contractor. Here are some key elements to consider when structuring an independent contractor agreement:

  • Scope of Work: This section outlines the specific services the contractor will provide, including deliverables, timelines, and performance expectations.
  • Payment Terms: Clearly define the fee structure, payment schedule, and method of payment (e.g., hourly rate, project fee, etc.).
  • Confidentiality: Both parties should agree to maintain confidentiality regarding sensitive information.
  • Termination Clause: Outline the conditions under which the contract can be terminated by either party.

Negotiation Practices for Independent Contractors

Independent contractors have more autonomy when negotiating their rates and terms compared to employees with set salaries and benefits. Here are some tips for effective negotiation:

  • Research Market Rates: Research industry standards for similar services to determine a fair compensation range.
  • Highlight Your Value: Clearly communicate your skills, experience, and the value you bring to the project.
  • Be Prepared to Walk Away: Knowing your bottom line and being prepared to walk away from a low offer strengthens your negotiation position.
  • Maintain a Professional Demeanor: Always approach negotiations with professionalism and respect.

Common Industries for Independent Contractors in Bermuda

Several industries in Bermuda frequently engage independent contractors due to the project-based nature of the work or the specialized skill sets required. Here are some prominent examples:

  • Information Technology (IT): IT professionals with expertise in software development, web design, and cybersecurity are often sought after as independent contractors.
  • Construction: Architects, engineers, and specialized tradespeople may operate as independent contractors on construction projects.
  • Marketing and Communications: Businesses may hire independent contractors for marketing campaigns, content creation, or graphic design services.
  • Accounting and Finance: Companies may engage independent contractors for bookkeeping, tax preparation, or financial analysis tasks.
  • Creative Industries: Writers, editors, photographers, and graphic designers often find opportunities as independent contractors.

Intellectual property rights

Freelancers and independent contractors in Bermuda contribute significantly to various industries with their skills and expertise. However, the ownership of intellectual property (IP) becomes a crucial factor when these individuals create original works for clients. Understanding IP rights ensures protection for both freelancers and clients.

Default Ownership of IP

According to the Bermuda Copyright Act 1984, the creator of an original work is the first owner of the copyright. This principle applies to freelancers and independent contractors as well. In the absence of a written agreement stating otherwise, they are considered the default owner of any copyrightable work they create, such as written content, designs, or software code.

Contractual Agreements and IP Transfer

The significance of a written contract between a freelancer and a client, especially concerning IP ownership, cannot be overstated. The contract should explicitly address who will own the IP rights created during the project.

Key considerations for contractors when negotiating IP ownership include:

  • Work Made for Hire: The Copyright Act provides an exception for "work made for hire". If the work is specifically commissioned as part of an employee's duties or under a written agreement that designates it as "work made for hire," ownership automatically transfers to the commissioning party (client). However, the agreement must clearly state this designation.

  • Transfer of Ownership: For projects outside the "work made for hire" category, a freelancer can contractually transfer ownership of their copyright to the client. This transfer should be explicitly stated in the agreement and consider the scope of use (exclusive or non-exclusive) granted to the client.

  • Licensing Rights: Instead of transferring complete ownership, a freelancer may choose to grant the client a license to use the IP for a specific purpose or duration. This allows the freelancer to retain ownership while providing the client with the necessary permissions to utilize the work.

By clearly outlining IP ownership and usage rights within a contract, both freelancers and clients can avoid confusion and potential legal disputes down the line.

Intellectual property law can be complex, and situations may vary depending on the specific type of work created. Freelancers and independent contractors are encouraged to consult with a lawyer experienced in IP law to ensure their contracts adequately protect their interests and properly address IP ownership.

Tax and insurance

Freelancing and independent contracting in Bermuda come with unique tax obligations and insurance considerations.

Tax Obligations for Freelancers and Independent Contractors

Freelancers and independent contractors, as self-employed individuals, are responsible for paying taxes on their income in Bermuda. Here's a breakdown of the key tax obligations:

  • Income Tax: All income earned through freelance or contract work is subject to Bermuda's progressive income tax system. Freelancers are required to file annual income tax returns and pay taxes based on their taxable income.

  • Social Insurance Contributions: Self-employed individuals are responsible for contributing to Bermuda's social insurance system, which provides benefits such as pensions and healthcare. The current social insurance contribution rate for self-employed persons is set by the Social Insurance Board.

  • Contributory Pension: While not mandatory, freelancers can opt to contribute to a private pension plan to save for retirement. Contributions to registered pension plans are typically tax-deductible.

Freelancers should maintain accurate records of their income and expenses throughout the year to simplify tax filing. Consulting with a registered tax advisor familiar with the specific needs of self-employed individuals is highly recommended.

Insurance Options for Freelancers and Independent Contractors

Independent contractors are responsible for securing their own insurance coverage. Here are some key insurance considerations:

  • Health Insurance: Health insurance is not mandatory in Bermuda, but it's highly advisable for freelancers to secure coverage to protect themselves from unexpected medical costs. Several private health insurance providers offer plans tailored to self-employed individuals.

  • Professional Liability Insurance: Depending on the nature of your freelance work, professional liability insurance (also known as errors and omissions insurance) can provide valuable protection. This type of insurance covers claims of negligence or errors made while performing services for clients.

  • General Liability Insurance: For freelancers whose work involves potential property damage or bodily injury to others, general liability insurance can offer peace of mind.

  • Life Insurance and Disability Insurance: These types of insurance can provide financial security for freelancers and their families in case of unexpected events.

The specific insurance needs of a freelancer will vary depending on their profession, income level, and risk tolerance. Consulting with a qualified insurance broker can help freelancers choose the most appropriate coverage options.

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