The concept of self-employment is not always easy to define. It is opposed to the notion of salaried or dependent activity. The criteria for distinguishing these two notions are diverse. Some situations may straddle the line between the two.


An employee has to follow the employer's instructions and guidelines to the letter. The self-employed person is usually not subject to such an extensive duty of subordination. The client can give general instructions but the self-employed is basically free to organise his work as he wishes. The line is often blurred.


Behind taking up a self-employed activity is often the desire to be able to be one's own boss and to organise one's work as one wishes. Hours, freedom to accept or refuse a client... What about workers who have a lot of room for manoeuvre but who receive a salary at the end of the month? This criterion alone is not decisive.

Economic risks

The self-employed person acts in his own name and on his own account. A client who withdraws? A lack of customers? A shortage of raw materials? The self-employed person can make profits from his activity but he also assumes the economic risks.

Starting a self-employed activity

After the end of the employment contract the employee sometimes wants to become self-employed. Starting a self-employed activity is far from easy. The mere fact that the employment relationship has ended does not mean that the employee is released from all obligations towards the former employer.


The former employee is obliged to respect the duty of confidentiality, even after the end of the employment relationship and even if there is no confidentiality clause in the employment contract. He may not use for his own account confidential information that he has become aware of during his employment.


A new self-employed person tries to convince a client of his former employer to follow him and offers him a more advantageous contract. Such behaviour can, depending on the circumstances, be qualified as unfair competition.

Non-competition clause

An employee who has become aware of his employer's clientele, business or manufacturing secrets can, under certain conditions, undertake not to compete with his former employer. The new self-employed person will have to pay attention to this. If he violates the non-competition clause, he risks being heavily sanctioned. 

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1 Mar, 2010 byMarianne Favre Moreillon