Moonlighting: What can you do about it as a HR Professional?

Moonlighting: What can you do about it as a HR Professional?
Dr. Aparna Sethi
Corporate Trainer and Author

In today’s job market, employees think outside the box and do whatever it takes to stand out as a high earning professional. One way to do that is by moonlighting. Some people might think it sounds like strange or dangerous work, but others see it as a great way to add a new skill set and build their resume while also earning money on the side.

As an HR professional who implements company policies, overseas employees performance and conflict of interests, the new trend might worry you. However, knowing about its pros and cons, ethical and legal nitty-gritties may equip you better to deal with the situation if you encounter it in near future.

What Is Moonlighting

While it might appear to be some astronomical phenomenon related to the moon and its light, actually it’s not. In its simplest form, Moonlighting is a trend in which working professionals are taking up another job side by side for financial or other gains and that too secretly.

The issue has come into light since IT giant Wipro recently fired around 300 employees for “moonlighting” after working hours. The trend particularly leaped up during corona pandemic lockdowns as work from home opportunities gave ample time to remotely working professionals to manage two jobs simultaneously.

What is Moonlighting
Types of Moonlighting

1. Blue moonlighting – Organizations implement performance appraisals annually or half yearly. However, some employees may not be pleased with the benefits awarded and hence start seeking some additional earning opportunities in an effort to supplement their income. However, due to a lack of skills their efforts fail and this attempt is known as Blue moonlighting.

2. Quarter moonlighting – When an employee is unhappy with the remuneration or finds it insufficient, she opts a part time job which is known as quarter moonlighting.

3. Half moonlighting – Few working professionals are highly ambitious and they want to utilize every second of their day to maximize their income for whatever reasons be it living a more luxurious life or increasing savings for the future. Such kinds of working professionals find a part time opportunity and such efforts are called as half moonlighting.

4. Full moonlighting – When a working professional joins a full time secondary employment to increase his earning capacity in order to upkeep with his peers, the act is known as full moonlighting.

Reasons for Moonlighting

1. Financial distress may compel working professionals to choose moonlighting.
2. Hunger to live a lavish life and desire to increase purchasing power may stimulate a working professional to choose moonlighting.
3. Non recognition at the workplace and poor compensation makes employees choose moonlighting.
4. When employees lose confidence in the management and start fearing for their job, they may decide to protect their financial interests by choosing a side hustle.
5. Employees willing to receive diverse exposure and knack of different skills may decide to moonlight.

What are its Pros and Cons

Moonlighting may benefit the employee as well as employer due to following reasons:

1. Moonlighting makes an employee pick up new skills, gain additional knowledge or different troubleshoot issues. The employees who learn new things will also bring fresh perspectives and innovation to their organizations.

2. Moonlighting can improve job satisfaction and employee retention as employees may feel happier with the organizations when they are given permission to earn a little extra without any fear of losing their jobs.

On the other hand, Moonlighting can adversely affect the employee and employer in the following ways:

1. It is risky to serve two masters at the same time. The employee may become fatigued, disengaged and less productive due to being overworked. Needless to say, an employee in such a state can never deliver a good performance.

2. Moonlighting can lead to conflict of interests and loss of confidential information if an employee works with a rival organization.

What companies are saying?

IT firms are divided when it comes to moonlighting.

WIPRO has policies in place that restrict employees from moonlighting. WIPRO’s policy states that employees are not allowed to work for any other company without written consent from their manager and the HR department. If an employee is caught moonlighting, they may face disciplinary action, which could include termination. INFOSYS’s policy is similar to WIPRO’s. A few days ago, even IBM warned against moonlighting.

In contrast, according to the recent Swiggy’s Moonlighting Policy, their regular employees are free to take dual employment post hours or on the weekend without affecting their productivity or posing a conflict of interest with the regular job. Major fintech Cred has also extended its support to side jobs.

Legal implications

Indian law does not clearly address the issue of side hustle jobs. However, the non-compete clause of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, prevents an employee from starting their own business or accepting an offer from a competitor. Nevertheless , the position of Indian law on this issue is not completely settled. The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 permits dual employment. Whereas under the Factories Act, 1948, it is prohibited. All in all, there is no defined legal framework that deals with Moonlighting.

Bottom line – What you can do as an HR professional about it

Although it is clear that organizations are under pressure to remain competitive, it is crucial to keep in mind that employees also have families and responsibilities outside of the workplace. As an HR professional, it’s critical to develop rules that support your staff members’ objectives without jeopardizing the interests of the organization. It may be useful to look at the companies that have successfully implemented similar policies when deciding on an overall policy on moonlighting.

Although you can’t prevent employees from pursuing other opportunities, you can certainly expect them to prioritize their current position. Establish a conflict of interest policy stating that a second employment cannot include simultaneously working for rival companies.

In conclusion, it is vital that HR managers comprehend the notion of moonlighting, the motivations that drive employees to engage in it, its effects on both individuals and the company, and what HR should do to mitigate its negative effects in their organizations.

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