The debate over moonlighting has taken centre stage. At the same time, it isn’t difficult to spot the rumblings of discontent among large groups of employees. A broad consensus on how to deal with the moonlighting issue has remained elusive. Partly because the two extreme positions on the subject aren’t easy to reconcile.
What is ‘moonlighting’?
- Moonlighting is the act of working at an extra job beyond regular working hours, usually without the knowledge of the employer.
- Since the side job was mostly at nighttime or on weekends, it was referred to as moonlighting.
- The term gained popularity when workers in the US started seeking a second job beyond their regular 9-to-5 work for additional income.
Does any law prevent dual employment?
- There is no law that prevents dual employment. Moonlighting is not defined under any statute in Indian employment laws. Moonlighting is also not necessarily dual employment, which is a formal employer-employee relationship, complete with legal obligations like minimum wage, provident fund, gratuity etc. It could also be side hustles or freelancing which can be with or without the knowledge of the primary employer.
- Moonlighting could be considered cheating if an employee’s contract calls for non-compete and single employment, which is the situation with the majority of conventional employment contracts. However, it is not cheating if the employment contracts do not have such a clause or provide relaxations.
What Are Companies’ Concerns?
- The primary concerns companies have against moonlighting is data and confidentiality breaches, and loss of productivity. Moonlighting may give employees the opportunity to divulge trade secrets if they are working in a similar industry and job.
- Employees need to understand the importance of maintaining confidential information that could benefit a competing organisation.
- If employees are working long hours, the second job may cause the employee to become distracted, unproductive, and neglect job responsibilities because of physical fatigue.
- Employees may use company resources for their second job which increases operating expenses.
Why is it happening?
- During Covid, there were firms that held their line. They didn’t lay off, cut salaries or bonuses. In fact, they doubled down to provide healthcare support, counselling services and showed genuine empathy in times of adversity. Equally, there were enough corporate scrooges, who slashed salaries, denied bonuses —and ruthlessly laid off workers, even as CEO salaries were substantially increased.
- Employees were perceptive enough to see through this charade. And many of them are now no longer willing to define themselves by the work they do. It is now just another aspect, albeit important, of their lives.
- This generational shift will have major implications on the workplace choices young people make. Trying to bind them through contracts and rigid policies could result in an upheaval. There’s another reality: There is a playbook for remote work that’s been around for more than two decades. Many employees who have experienced the benefits of remote work now want more choice and flexibility in planning and executing their work. Measure us on outcome, they say.
The debate around moonlighting needs to be reframed around flexibility versus rigidity of workplace policies. Importantly, it is also about access to capabilities rather than owning all the talent, especially at a time when the potential for gig work grows.
Post-Covid, the pragmatic leadership team at Swiggy has read the writing on the wall by introducing their industry-first moonlighting policy. What are other CEOs waiting for?
Source – Outlook India and Business Standard
QUESTION – What is ‘moonlighting’? What are the legal issues associated with it? Why is it happening now? Discuss the various aspects of moonlighting in brief.