“Moonlighting” is the term used to refer to working a covert job, especially at night. Employees would decide to work “under the moonlight,” or at night, after completing their day shifts at their principal job.
Working a second job after regular business hours is known as moonlighting. As a result, an individual may perform a regular 9 to 5 job as the main source of income while also working nights at another employment to supplement her or his income.
This is not just common in the corporate sector, but if one may cite an example of our teachers, some of them work in the school from 8 am to 2 pm and give lessons to children in the evenings or on weekends.
Another example can be of full-time private hospital employees’ who are allowed to carry out part-time private practise at home. Housekeepers may work in several households each day on an hourly basis.
Nowadays, in addition to their normal occupations, employees can be observed partaking in a range of extracurricular activities like music, singing, acting, theatre, content creation for social media, and other creative endeavours. These are a few instances of moonlighting that we encounter in daily life.
Moonlighting has triggered a big debate in the corporate world and the jobs’ sector. While some are calling it unethical, and something that breaches contractual obligations others are supporting it as the right of young and low-paid professionals to earn extra and diversify earnings.
Many believe that the trend of moonlighting was triggered by the onset of work-from-home culture necessitated by the pandemic. Recently, the corporate world has been abuzz with debates around this controversial topic.
Some leaders have taken strong stands against moonlighting employees, calling the practice unacceptable and unethical.
At the same time, there are a number of companies (and, not just start-ups) that have found a way to accept it. The reality is that moonlighting has existed for generations now, and if the current employment trends are anything to go by, we know that it is here to stay regardless of how one might feel about it.
Therefore, the question business leaders need to focus on is how to navigate this unwelcome workplace challenge without resorting to extreme methods.
There is no explicit definition of “double employment” or “dual employment” in Indian law or a blanket ban on moonlighting. However, Indian laws do regulate it to some extent. Section 60 of the Factories Act of 1948, forbids dual employment but organisations that do not run factories do not fall under the ambit of this Act.
The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Central Rules, 1946, state that a workman cannot be doing dual employment work against the interests of an industrial establishment.
Section 65 of the Bombay Shops and Establishments Act, 1948 has restrictions on dual employment during leave or holiday. Section 9 of the Delhi Shops and Establishment Act,1954, also restricts double employment.
Each state has its own laws and regulations, and most of the statutes exempt IT companies that are free to take an independent call on the issue of moonlighting.
In a recent survey it is revealed that 66 per cent of employees in India admit that the best way to grow their skills is to change companies.
On the brighter side, about 90 per cent say that they would stay at their company longer if they are given more learning and development opportunities, revealing a powerful retention tool for businesses. While strong company policies to hinder people from moonlighting is one of the more obvious ways of dealing with the challenge, organisations would also benefit from truly listening to what their employees want.
The issue is not restricted to moonlighting alone. An uninspired workforce, whether engaged in multiple employment or ‘quiet quitting’ (when employees do not feel motivated to do anything beyond the bare minimum), is ultimately a disengaged workforce ~ and that is a red flag for any organization. The debate on moonlighting has touched upon several aspects including ethics, contractual obligations as well as the right of low-paid youngsters to earn additional sums of money. It is important to note that these three dimensions are independent of each other and should not be viewed through a common lens in the context of moonlighting.
Fundamentally, if the employment contract clearly states that the employee cannot undertake any other assignment with monetary returns, the case for moonlighting simply does not arise.
It’s the legal and ethical obligation of the employees to stand by the contract. The recent incident when one renowned IT company fired some employees in dual employment or the recent announcement by another IT company about its intent to take strict action against those moonlighting highlights the concerns of the industry.
The hard work, sincerity and diligence of Indian IT professionals have been appreciated at every critical juncture the world has experienced ~ whether it was at the time of surmounting the problem of coding around Y2K and transitioning smoothly in circa 2000 or the tough times heralded by Covid-19 requiring overnight abilities of large and small corporations to go digital to service their customers.
The world has recognised the immense value of Indian IT talent to successfully handle such critical situations. If the Indian IT industry, which touched $200 billion revenue in 2021, has to grow to $350 billion by 2025-26, the primary strength of our talent and intent to build and enhance trustworthy partnerships for mission critical applications and products would be paramount.
For individuals who wish to work on more than one assignment at a time and for companies that wish to draw upon diverse talent, the gig format of working without being bound by employment contracts gives flexibility to all stakeholders.
Bringing in transparency and encouraging the workforce to be aligned with the policies and employment formats is absolutely essential. The question of low salaries for freshers cannot be the rationale for moonlighting as each company has built its business model around employment strategies that best suit it and its customers.
Employees should be encouraged to discuss their areas of interests and employers should form views on the likely conflicts to their business or renegotiate the contracts and their compensation in order to permit them to share their time between organisations if that suits the philosophy of the business and its customers.
In conclusion, it’s not just the question of how to prevent employees from moonlighting that requires attention, the question is also about the hiring philosophy of businesses and their work formats that require to be addressed together in order to bring clarity to all stakeholders.