Bermuda: Labour Regulation
Under the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 the Immigration Department of the Bermuda government requires that Bermudian citizens must be given first opportunity to acquire employment. If the post has been advertised in local newpapers three times and if no Bermudian is registered in a related work category with the Government Employment Office then a non-Bermudian can be offered the job. The employer must then apply to the Immigration Department on the worker's behalf for a permit.
As from April 2001, six-year limits on work permits came into effect, although senior executives and/or key staff that contribute to the success of a company could work free of any time restrictions. This also applied where there is a proven severe shortage of qualified staff.
According to the government at the time, companies that wished to have a worker made exempt from the six year limit must have a good record in training and employing locals; producing clear and correct job advertisements; and submitting work permit applications that are correctly completed. Such firms can also look forward to speedier processing of work permit applications.
All non-Bermudians seeking professional employment are expected to hold at least a graduate degree from an accredited university, or an appropriate Masters degree, or a PhD.
In October, 2003, the work permit term limit policy was sharply criticized by former Labour and Home Affairs Minister Quinton Edness, who urged the government to drop the current rules in favour of a more flexible scheme practiced in many other countries.
“I understand the problems Government is trying to resolve, but I think this policy is wrong and should be removed,” said Mr. Edness. “I think the policy is unreasonable and is threatening and intimidating to international companies as well as local companies. My fear is that it will result in damaging the economic welfare of Bermudians,” he warned.
“There is a simple way to prevent this," declared Mr Edness, continuing: "all Government has to do is to put in its immigration policy, like other countries do, that you cannot become a long term resident or get any status as a Bermuda citizen as the result of a work permit.”
The cost of a work permit is met by the future employer, and varies according to the proposed length of employment.
For Bermuda companies that wish to employ individuals on temporary assignments in Bermuda, an application may be made for a Temporary Work Permit which is generally granted for a period of three months. There is no need to advertise the position in Bermuda. Renewals of the temporary work permit can be obtained.
In a statement published on its website, the Bermuda Immigration Department had this to say on the matter of employing expatriate workers and Bermudian residents:
"This Government has worked hard to strike the right balance between the understandable desire of business to operate with a minimum of regulatory control and the legitimate and proper aspirations of Bermudians to participate fully in the economy of their island home."
"On the one hand, we have listened carefully to the concerns of business. We have understood their needs to secure the right staff to enable them to compete effectively in the global market place. And it is, of course, entirely in the interest of every Bermudian that they should be able to do so. The Government recognises that international business is becoming critically important to the economic well-being of our people, particularly in terms of job creation."
"However, the Government has an obligation to regulate business in a way that derives benefits for all Bermuda’s people. We have heard too often how Bermudians feel left out of the Island’s prosperity. How they feel denied opportunities to train and hone their skills. How they feel that promotion opportunities are not open to them. The new policy I am publishing today will address these concerns. I believe that, as a result of our deliberations with stakeholders and our co-operation with the business community in developing the policy, the policy will be firmer, fairer, faster, and more flexible."
"First, the system will be firmer. A number of measures will tighten up on abuses. For example, there will be a policy of zero tolerance for immigration offences. Companies that are found to have abused the system will not benefit from the more expedited application process we are introducing. In this way, our new system will encourage compliance and reward good corporate practice."
"As such it will be fairer. This is the second aspect I wish to address. The system will be fairer for Bermudians. Term limits, specifying a date beyond which work permits will not normally be renewed, will be introduced. This will put an end to any tendency to automatically apply for renewals of work permits without there being a genuine interest in attracting, recruiting and training Bermudians. Term limits mean that as a general rule work permit holders will be limited to a maximum term of six years unless they are exempt. These exemptions are possible where companies can demonstrate that they are good corporate citizens."
Companies that are good corporate citizens are those that adhere to best practices such as:
- actively attracting, recruiting and training Bermudians and being able to demonstrate the same;
- reporting periodically on training programmes and opportunities provided by the employer for Bermudians;
- producing clear and correct advertisements;
- disclosing full information about the selection procedure including the interview process;
- submitting fully completed and accurate applications e.g. correct fee, fully completed questionnaire form, properly identified chest X-ray(s), etc;
- being free of any case of legal action in Bermuda against the company for poor industrial practices or human rights violations;
- and any other activities which will serve to enhance the reputation of a good corporate citizen, such as:
- providing business plans indicating development options periodically;
- being recognised as meeting the standards set by organisations, such as Investors-in-People;
- voluntarily contributing to the development of Bermudians through such organisations as, but not limited to, the Bermuda Careers Centre, the National Training Board, the Bermuda Insurance Institute, scholarships, programmes aimed at providing for Bermudians to gain overseas work experience, significant financial support for job-related courses and training, etc.
"In this way, the Government is underpinning its commitment to the people of Bermuda with action. Together with the business community we shall ensure that our people are equipped with the skills to take a full part in the economic life of the country. Businesses that are good corporate citizens are joining with us in this endeavour. Many, large and small, local and exempted companies, have already reached the “gold standard” of good corporate citizenship by embracing the approach we have set out."
"The permission-in-principle available to a good corporate citizen is an example of how the system will be faster. Once permission-in-principle is given to a company, they will have access to a faster, more streamlined process. We shall not sacrifice quality and shall continue to carry out the necessary checks. But the faster process will remove uncertainty for business and reduce the bureaucracy involved in applying for a work permit."
"Finally, the system will be more flexible. We are conscious that term limits will not be appropriate for every position and that businesses will require continuity if they are to be viable. We recognise that we cannot expect to fill every job from within the local labour pool. Like other jurisdictions, we are competing to attract workers with skills that are in short supply, not just in Bermuda, but across the world. It would be wrong if term limits led us to lose such people. For this reason, the system will be flexible. Term limits will not apply to positions and persons who are proven to be key to the success of a company; nor will they apply to those categories where there is a demonstrable, severe shortage, either because the scarce resources world-wide have a local impact, or there are shortages locally owing to the exceptional high demand."
In a move to attract international business and retain thos already based in Bermuda, new rules for work permits were discussed by the Government in 2012. Speaking in November 2012, Economy Minister Patrice Minors stated that: "The 2012 Work Permit policies contain a number of policies that are favourable to the interest of local and international business partners. “The community can expect a balanced policy, one that is designed to create mutually beneficially conditions for the establishment of new businesses in Bermuda and one that also makes it easy for businesses that have moved to other jurisdictions to return. The new policy recognises that we live in a global marketplace and positions Bermuda to compete more effectively.”