Moonlighting

I had heard about moonwalking, but now-a-days moonlighting is more in the news.

I was a bit surprised why Wipro sacked around 300 employees for ‘moonlighting’ and why other IT companies like IBM and Infosys had warned their employees against this latest trend of Moonlighting, wherein a company employee engages in dual employment covertly, without keeping the primary employers informed.

Actually it all started when IT professionals were given an option to WFH (Work From Home), during the Covid-19 pandemic. Employees’ days are now longer as they spend less time in commuting. So some of them use extra time for their side employments.

What they did was to have two different laptops catering to two different clients but with the same WiFi, all from the comfort of own home. Double delivery with double payment. There was no source to catch them, as they were performing exceedingly well for both clients.

But the culprit was their own PF (Provident Fund) contributions that had to be deposited by employers regularly with no exception. Non-compliance is treated as a serious offence in India.

Aadhar and PAN numbers are the basic documents that are taken by banks to open salary account, and by companies to do back ground check, as also to deposit PF. So it’s not possible for any moonlighter to create two identities for themselves .

EPFO regularly checks whether all employees are paid every month. The de-duplication algorithm also finds whether someone has been paid double by mistake. In case of accounts of individuals, where contributions were more than one, the matter was reported to companies to cross-check and the fact of moonlighting came into light.

IT services have now openly cautioned their staffers against taking a second job after work hours clearly stating that such moonlighters have no place who choose to work directly with rivals creating a conflict of interest. Companies are of the considered view that ‘two-timing’ and ‘double lives’ impact the productivity of employees.

There may always be two views, and moonlighting is not an exception. CEO of Tech Mahindra says, “As long as an employee is achieving the set productivity and efficiency targets, and is not doing anything against the ethics of the company, moonlighting should not be a problem.”

Swiggy has already announced an industry-first ‘Moonlighting Policy’ by allowing employees to work on other projects after working hours.

In a government job, one cannot think of taking up another job. It will attract termination. Ethics and loyalty are of paramount importance. But in private or multinational companies, which follow ‘hire and fire policy’, the issue of loyalty takes a back seat. A freelancer can work for many clients simultaneously.

If a company can take up other activities in addition to main business, it’s called diversification, and it taken as the sign of growth, but if an employee does the same thing, why should it be condemned?

I know people may raise the issue of ethics, loyalty and conflict of interest etc. Some may also feel that when a large number of unemployed youth are there, dual employment should be strictly prohibited.

I think there will be more discussions on the issue in days and months to come, to arrive at some concrete solutions.


–Kaushal Kishore

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15 Comments

  1. Thank you, Kaushal, for the interesting topic. If there is no conflict of interest,
    a person should be free to work in his spare time. It is better for the economy and for the well-being of the worker who can provide for his family in times of rising prices.

    Joanna

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you, Joanna, if someone is in a position to utilise his spare time to earn a few bucks for his family, there should be no objection from any corner. I think the hullabaloo is in IT industry, because there will be a conflict of interest, if someone chooses to work for two rival IT companies.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I heard about this. Usually company policy never allow for their employees to work for another at the same time as there will be conflict of interest. But on the other hand with rising cost of living I can imagine why some would have relented to doing something like this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If the two companies are in the same industry, there will be a conflict of interest, but if the companies are unrelated segments, there should be no heartburn. If a professional can be co-opted as Directors of several companies, moonlighting should not be taken with contempt. Thank you, Manu, for reading and sharing your beautiful reflections!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Its interesting to see the different approaches in different countries. You’re article caught my attention as I thought moonlighting must now mean something else – its always been used to describe employees with fulltime jobs taking up secondary work and not telling their employers. In the UK, as a concept its been around all my working life (going back to the early 1980s).
    As you pointed out in your article, the issue is where an employer has a term written into their contract of employment that the employee needs to gain approval from their primary employer. Where this happens, the employee is in breach of contract and could be dismissed.
    I think, unless the employee in the UK is being paid cash in hand, our tax and national insurance system would sort out the contributions paid across different employers, so I don’t think we’d have the same problem here.
    I do agree with some of the comments too, that we are seeing more people taking on second and sometimes even 3rd jobs because they are trying to make ends meet in these trying times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad that this problem doesn’t exist there, but here most of the employers write in the employment contract itself not to seek employment outside concurrently. But the things are changing, and so are values and systems, and above all the need of individuals and society. I think this is the transition phase, and I hope in days to come, a concrete view may emerge. Thank you for taking your time to be here and sharing such information and thoughts. Much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t mean Moonlighting wasn’t a problem here – it is. I think you referred to the taxes etc that are deducted and the system attached to that causing a problem – that’s what I was referring to. In the UK employees changing jobs usually receive a P45 from their employer which they then pass on to the new employer. If you don’t have that, because its a second job for example, then you are put on a different tax code which means you pay full taxes on the earnings. But I don’t think the tax authorities would inform the primary employer

    But I agree that globally things are changing in the world of work and there are many factors putting pressure on employees and employers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for clarifying the issue. I appreciate it. In fact I was referring to the tax system. Here in India, the whole thing has been so integrated that it’s next to impossible to escape from the primary employer.

      Liked by 1 person

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