Moonlighting this term is in news from quite sometime. Many corporate leaders have spoken in favour of this and many spoken against this. This concept has been in limelight post COVID 19. Once the work and other business parameters opened moonlighting came up as a hot topic. It further become a trending topic when 300 employees were fired buy Wipro for moonlighting for competitors.
What is moonlighting ?
Lets first know what is moonlighting. Oxford dictionary defines this as “have a second job, typically secretly and at night, in addition to one’s regular employment.” Cambridge dictionary defines this as the act of working at an extra job, especially without telling your main employer. People moonlight when they work in addition to their primary job and without the knowledge of their current employers. This secondary job is only available after the regular 9-5 or 9-6 work hours, i.e. at night, hence the reference to the moon.
What sparked the debate ?
When the pandemic struck, the work from home mode was on. This resulted in remote working, which eliminated long commutes and provided people with more flexible work schedules. There were numerous opportunities available at the time, ranging from website development to app creation. Due to the short duration of these one-time projects, some saw them as quick ways to supplement income. Workers who chose such side jobs did not see it as a direct conflict of interest because they did not require full-time commitment.
Dual employment is prohibited in India under the Factories Act. Some IT firms, however, are exempt from this rule. As a result, the corporate world is divided on the ethics of moonlighting. Now the question comes why the debate came up now for IT companies. Most modern businesses arebased on IP, know-how, and data-driven, and there is always a risk of data and knowledge drain, particularly when moonlighting for competing companies. There is also concern that employees may be working for side jobs while working from home during office hours.
At the same time, counter views are , moonlighting is not defined by any statute in Indian employment laws. Moonlighting is not always synonymous with dual employment. It could also be side hustles or freelancing, with or without the primary employer’s knowledge.
What corporate world says ?
The issue of tech professionals moonlighting has sparked a new debate, polarising opinions and raising difficult legal issues.
Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji called the situation “cheating.” Wipro has fired approximately 300 employees for’moonlighting.’ Premji stated that the company has no place for any employee who chooses to work directly with competitors while on the payroll of Wipro. According to reports, the Indian IT behemoth Infosys has warned employees that moonlighting could result in service termination. NG Subramaniam, the chief operating officer of Tata Consultancy Services, has described it as an ethical issue. Sandip Patel, the MD of IBM India, agreed that moonlighting was unethical.
On the other hand, Tech Mahindra CEO C P Gurnani, stated that it is necessary to change with the times and added, “I welcome disruption in the ways we work.” Chairman of Manipal Global Education Mohandas Pai called moonlighting a fact of life Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Indian Union minister, has joined the ongoing debate over this topic. He made a Economic Times on the sidelines of the ninth edition of the annual Public Affairs Forum of India “Moonlighting represents two very significant phenomena. One, the entrepreneurial bug that has bitten every techie. Two, the talent deficit or demand for talent. For a company to forbid a young engineer from dabbling in a startup…they (companies) do not understand the change in model,”. Meanwhile, Foodtech startup Swiggy is one of the first to unveiled a formal moonlighting policy. Employees will be permitted to engage in activities outside of office hours or on weekends that do not interfere with their productivity on the full-time job or create a conflict of interest under this policy.
Moonlighting & business !
We have to accept that gig economy has opened up many avenues for every walks of life. Many start-up companies and overseas corporates run on gig. Right from just making apps and websites to non-tech offers like voice overs & writing sub-titles have made a mark in today’s world. These gigs are across the internet. So it is quite obvious that employees will come across all these. They are quick and easy to do and helps in additional income to their household.
Now, will your business allow moonlighting or not, this is a subject and relative call. This has a lot of positive and negative side.
I suggest follow points in this matter:
1. Well defined policy: A business unit must have clear and well-defined policy on this
2. Employee contract: Company policy on moonlighting must be well mentioned in employee contract or offer letter at the time of recruitment.
3. Protection of data: A business unit must have a well-defined system to prevent loss or pilferage of data.
4. Conflict of interest: Business unit must be clear on various aspects on conflict of interest owing to moonlighting. This need to be communicated to employees clearly.
5. Competitor link-up: Business must clearly define and communicate to its employees about the competitive link-up while moonlighting and its consequences.
6. Productivity & efficiency: Businesses must clearly communicate about loss of productivity and efficiency owing to moonlighting and how it plans to tackle those.
As on date moonlighting is a matter of debate. At the same time freelancing is on rise. So it is important for businesses to come up with a proper policy on this rather than keeping the loop open.