News of IT giant Wipro laying off 300 employees for moonlighting has brought the concept of “Moonlighting” back into the limelight. Doing other job after regular working hours is called ‘Moonlighting’. The sentiment behind the concept is that work is usually done in the evening or at night i.e. by moonlight. Moonlighting means having a regular job as the main source of income and doing a second job (usually in the evenings/nights) in the spare time from the first job for more income.
An old concept
Moonlighting is not a new concept. We have seen many examples of it around us. Our teachers used to conduct coaching classes after school hours. We have seen doctors working in private hospitals doing private practice from home or clinic. Those who hold regular jobs and run weekend hobby classes or trekking clubs fall under the concept of “moonlighting”. The phrase “moonlighting” refers to working undercover, especially at night.
Why did moonlighting increase?
During the Covid-19 pandemic, employees were allowed to work from home. Working hours changed while working from home. Employees got the freedom and privacy they needed and it encouraged them to work on other businesses’ projects simultaneously. Employees got the opportunity to set up additional businesses or projects.
Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the financial condition of many companies has deteriorated. Many companies began to reduce employees, cut wages to survive. Office hours of employees increased. Annual appraisals and promotions stalled. That led to the need to find second jobs, new projects, and moonlighting.
Indian industry divided over moonlighting
The Indian industry seems divided on taking a stance on moonlighting. Most IT service companies consider ‘moonlighting’ as cheating. For commercial reasons, most traditional businesses prohibit their employees from working for third parties.
Tech giants such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Wipro have said that moonlighting is an ethical issue and against the company’s core values. Meanwhile, the new age believes that morality should evolve over time. Tech Mahindra, on the other hand, is supporting it and plans to introduce an open policy for employees. Food delivery company Swiggy has also given ‘moonlighting’ to its employees.
Reasons for opposition
Different companies have different views on this issue. Some of the risk factors identified by these companies for moonlighting as employees are as follows:
1. Conflict of Interest:
Concerns center on potential conflicts of interest due to an employee working for a competing company or disclosing private or sensitive information.
2. Doubts about job performance of employees:
Doing two jobs at the same time can affect both jobs. Companies are concerned that if an individual does too much work for themselves, it may affect the productivity or performance of the main work.
3. Low concentration and fatigue:
Employees who work double duty can experience physical and mental fatigue, which leads to inability to concentrate, laziness and other health-related problems. These problems affect the growth of the business.
4. Misuse of Company Resources:
Given the possibility that company resources such as laptops, printers and software can also be used for side businesses, it is natural that companies opposed to moonlighting.
Employees often take leave from their primary job for side gigs as they juggle two responsibilities at the same time and that is detrimental to the company.
Is moonlighting legal or illegal?
The law in India does not yet outright ban moonlighting. Section 60 of the Factories Act, 1948 prohibits dual employment of adult workers in factories. However, organizations that do not operate factories are exempt from these anti-dual employment rules.
The practice of moonlighting has been around for years and will probably continue. But its baseline has shifted. Earlier, people used to indulge in their hobbies or side projects after office hours, mostly on weekends and holidays. But New Age Moonlighting is not. The hybrid and work-from-home culture brought about by the pandemic has blurred the concepts of working hours and days. Therefore, side projects have started to be done during the main work and side projects during the main work. Its direct effects are visible in the main works.
The debate on whether moonlighting is right or wrong shows no signs of ending. Taking a lesson from this, the government should formulate a policy on moonlighting as part of the new labor laws. Companies should also include a conflict of interest clause in the employment agreement as well as a special clause prohibiting moonlighting. The legal framework will put a little more curb on moonlighting, but it is not possible to stop it completely. Educating employees on ethics and taking action can make a small difference, but they will have to be prepared to live with this idea in the future and change their rules accordingly.
With the changing times, it will be necessary to look at this change positively. Moonlighting is the only way you can improve your skills, learn new things, and make sure you’re not redundant in your career. Moonlighting fulfills the needs of employees who want to earn more money. A company should not be concerned with what an employee does outside of business hours, as long as there is no conflict, if the employee is protecting confidentiality, is not working for competitors during employment, and does not interfere with performance.
Since the massive use of digital technology after the pandemic has made it easy to multitask, people are finding moonlighting as the best option to deal with their financial problems, reduce their mental stress and boredom, make optimal use of their time and improve their social life. The time to come is sure to be moonlighting.