Moonlighting: Employee vs Employers

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Wipro recently made waves with its decision to fire 300 employees for moonlighting. IBM, Infosys and TCS warn against this trend as well and plan to terminate employee contracts if necessary. Alternatively, companies like Swiggy and Tech Mahindra are willing to accept this new change in the business landscape and even support it under the right circumstances. Ex-Infosys Director Mohandas Pai is also a vocal supporter of moonlighting.

Moonlighting isn’t a new phenomenon by any means. However, its widespread adoption and popularity in India, especially in the IT sector, is a byproduct of the pandemic

Moonlighting is preferred by employees because it enriches their professional lives. Employers, on the other hand, express polarizing opinions on the matter- ranging from outrage to conditional acceptance.

The topic of moonlighting has split the Indian business landscape and has become a hot topic of debate among the nation’s greatest minds. Let’s look at this situation and its varied aspects in detail. 

What is Moonlighting?

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It basically refers to having more than one job. Oftentimes employees take up a side hustle or a second job in addition to their primary one. Employees usually take up these jobs without telling their main employers.

Freelancing is the most common route taken by moonlighters. It gives people the flexibility and autonomy of choosing the projects they want to work on, the amount they charge for the projects, the companies they work with, and the time they spend on them.

Why is There an Increase in the Number of Moonlighters?

Back in 2020, the pandemic completely changed the way businesses operated. People who had been going to offices every day for years started working from home. Flexible schedules became the norm, and in the absence of travel, people had more time on their hands. 

Being in a remote setting also enabled people to take up second jobs without letting their employers know. It’s easy to hide when you’re working behind a computer screen.

Some of the reasons why people took up new projects and side hustles are-

1. The financial stability of many people was challenged in the pandemic, and a second job was an additional source of income.
2. Many people found that their regular jobs didn’t fulfil them. It could’ve been the lack of control over the work or the desire to practice their creativity. Whatever the reason might be, a side hustle enriched the lives of employees.
3. Additional projects are also a great way to upskill. In the dynamic business world of today, constant upskilling and development are necessary to remain relevant in the job market.
4. Many people take up projects and side hustles to explore different career options. People can find out what they truly like to do without letting go of the financial security that comes with their primary job.

What Is the Stance of Employers Regarding Moonlighting in India?

Moonlighting is most commonly seen in the IT industry. A reason for that is that many people began their IT startups whilst being fully employed. There is also a greater opportunity in the IT sector to take up development projects with various companies.

Companies Against Moonlighting

As discussed initially, there is a clear divide between IT companies when it comes to moonlighting. Companies like Wipro, TCS, and Infosys are strongly against it. Wipro’s CEO Rishad Premji even considers moonlighting as cheating. Infosys also warned its employees against moonlighting as it could lead to termination of employment.

Employment contracts of the people working in these companies clearly prohibit them from dual employment. Moreover, law firms are also seeing an increase in the number of MNCs wanting to revisit their employment contracts. Companies want contracts to specify exclusivity of employment not just during working hours, but rather for the entire term of employment.

Some reasons why companies are against moonlighting are-

1. Companies want to avoid confidentiality breaches. Employees often take up projects with the direct competitors of their employers. This can result in the leakage of sensitive company information and conflict of interest.
2. The company may suffer huge financial and intellectual property losses if employees divulge information to competitors.
3. Employees may use company resources for their second job, thereby adding to the operating expenses.
4. The pressures of handling two jobs can take a severe toll on the health and productivity of employees.

Companies in Favour of Moonlighting

We have only explored one side of the spectrum. On the other side, there are companies that accept, and even encourage moonlighting. Swiggy and Tech Mahindra, for example, have a relaxed stance on the issue.

These companies believe that moonlighting is the new industry trend and trying to prevent it completely will be counterproductive. Companies that ignore this new trend may face some backlash from employees and the market alike.

Due to the pandemic and remote working, employees now value greater flexibility in their work. Platforms that allow people to pick up side gigs and projects are also gaining traction. Businesses have also started outsourcing functions like web development and marketing, thereby creating more opportunities for moonlighters.

Startups are strong proponents of moonlighting. Especially since many startups were started by moonlighters themselves. They encourage their employees to pick up projects in different industries and fields.

In such changing times, companies have started accepting moonlighters as long as there is no conflict of interest and loss of productivity. Companies like Swiggy have also issued Moonlighting Policies to move with the trends.

Stance on Moonlighting in the International Markets

Even though moonlighting has gained popularity in India recently, it has been a common practice for employees in the US and UK.
Many companies in the US have been built as a side gig. Moonlighting is the norm and people depend on these practices to start their journey as entrepreneurs.

Moonlighting is here to stay. Going forward, it will become necessary for companies to revisit employee contracts and clarify their stance on the issue.