Moonlighting – What is it and why is it an issue?

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 A term that has caught the hiring industry’s attention and is primarily associated with IT Companies. What exactly is Moonlighting? The word in itself indicates the use of the term ‘Moonlight.’ When employees take up a second job after their current hours (especially at night), they are considered to be Moonlighting.

It is difficult for an average person to rely on one income in the current global world. With every individual striving for a better standard of living, the urge to earn more is apparent. It does not necessarily mean a fixed-hour job when discussing a second job. People take up freelancing or consulting projects to cash in the extra buck. So, where does the problem exactly lie?


Moonlighting in the news

Recently, a leading IT company Wipro sacked 300 of its employees for moonlighting. Other IT companies like TCS have also taken a stringent stand against employees taking up an extra ‘gig.’ In a recent interview with the Economic Times, the Chief Operating Officer of TCS, N G Subramaniam, said, “It (Moonlighting) is unethical and unacceptable from an employer perspective. Unacceptable for my clients as well. The whole industry could fall apart due to this”. Companies, especially in the IT Industry, fear a lack of confidentiality when it comes to employees working in another company that may or may not be their rival. Wipro’s CEO, Thiery Delaporte, has raised the concern of ethics when working for a competitor. Other considerations of companies include a lack of productivity and engagement and the use of company resources. IT companies are already battling a high employee attrition rate, and a lack of engagement can be a negative factor. Juggling two jobs at a time can also become counter-productive for the employee, and thus their performance will suffer. Employees may use company resources to use specific software or company infrastructure elements for their secondary job. Ultimately, this will burden the primary employer and increase their operating expenses.


Arguments in support of Moonlighting

While the fears of such companies are not invalid, Moonlighting has also been gaining some support. Companies realize the importance of allowing employees to work a second job or a gig outside their working hours. Infosys had been firing people for taking up a second job, but recently their Chief executive officer Salil Parekh has reiterated the company’s stance on it. Parekh emphasizes that it is okay for employers to “work on certain gig projects after the prior approval of the managers.” Back in August, Swiggy introduced a policy that stated employees were allowed to take up another job or external projects outside their working hours to earn extra money. One important addition in the policy said that this should not impact their productivity or have a conflict of interest with the company’s business. Other companies like Tech Mahindra also support the concept of moonlighting but believe in maintaining transparent communication between employees and the company. The Minister of State for Skill Development, Entrepreneurship, Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has stated that dual employment should not pose any problem.


Is Moonlighting legal in any way?

What makes moonlighting such a debatable topic is the concerns of each company. While some fear confidentiality and loss of productivity, others believe in giving freedom and transparency to employees. But is moonlighting illegal? Specific employee contracts state that employees should not engage in any secondary job. This indicates to the employee that violating the contract terms will be unlawful. Although in many cases, when the second job is not related to the company, certain employees get a waiver agreement signed stating their secondary job. For example, a corporate employee may be a guest lecturer in a college. In such cases, it is essential to note that the second job will not affect the primary employer. Thus, the legality of moonlighting depends on the company’s temperament and communication between the employer and employees.

About the Author

Raghib is an IIM Kashipur first-year MBA student. During his leisure time, he loves to play games, watch sports and movies. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.


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