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Is moonlighting at work cheating or the future? Who owns your time?

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadSep 01, 2022 | 08:00

Is moonlighting at work cheating or the future? Who owns your time?

Is Moonlighting ethical or not? Representative Photo: Getty Images

To moonlight or not?

Is it cheating or not?

Is it your right or not?

You must have come across the debate on moonlighting that has ensued in the Indian professional industry, especially IT. Most notably, Wipro chairman Rashid Premji's tweet calling moonlighting "cheating" is what has triggered a barrage of opinions. 

First, what is moonlighting? Moonlighting is a term that defines employed professionals having a second job or multiple jobs along with their primary job. This concept is not new, but the debate that's raging on LinkedIn India and elsewhere is. 

Why is it in the news? There have been reports for some time this year, that a lot of people employed in the Indian IT sector have been juggling more than one job due to the work-from-home policy and that it is reportedly affecting their productivity. 

That's how Premji's comment on Twitter came to be. 

Now, to the debate: Is moonlighting wrong? There is an ethical and legal angle to this question. 

People like Rashid Premji are of the belief that moonlighting is unethical. But a lot of others are of the belief that if moonlighting doesn't hurt the productivity at the primary job and is not in conflict with the company's interests, then there is nothing wrong with it. 

Legally speaking, the Indian Factories Act is ambiguous on moonlighting. However, some employment contracts have clauses against moonlighting or double employment, so if an employee is breaching the terms of the contract, there may be legal consequences or the primary company may just let go of the employee. 

What are people saying about moonlighting? 

Former director of Indian IT giant, Infosys, Mohandas Pai, told Business Today, that there is nothing wrong with moonlighting. 

Employment is a contract between an employer who pays me for working for them for 'n' number of hours a day. During that time, I have to abide by their conditions…Now what I do after that time is my freedom, I can do what I want.
- Mohandas Pai

Food ordering app, Swiggy, embraced moonlighting recently in a new policy addition. Swiggy's moonlighting policy allows employees to take up a second job upon a few conditions - namely, not impacting productivity or being in a conflict of interest with the company. 

Be it volunteering with an NGO, working as a dance instructor, or content creation for social media, Swiggy firmly believes that working on such projects outside of one's full-time employment can significantly contribute to both professional and personal development of an individual.
- Swiggy's Moonlighting Policy

Mint reported Tech Mahindra MD CP Gurnani, saying that moonlighting is not rampant and that his organisation would "make a policy" to allow employees to take up multiple jobs openly. 

Co-founder and CEO of Games2Win, Alok Kejriwal, wrote in his LinkedIn post that moonlighting cannot be happening if the work distribution and employee management is smooth. 

If it's happening in white-collar jobs, then it's the company's fault. There must be mismanagement in job allocation by skill/time for the professional. If you give someone a full-time job that takes 2 hours to complete, then surely that person may moonlight for intellectual satisfaction beyond making money!
- Alok Kejriwal

Arjun Prakash, founder at Pivot, a career advising firm, says that companies complaining about moonlighting, the great resignation and quiet quitting, is double standards. He says when the same companies can hire, fire, lay off, cut payment, delay payment, etc on their own wishes, why should they question an employee trying to make some side money? 

Others pointed out how employees resorting to moonlighting are mostly those who are being underpaid.

Another user said that "leaders have to get used to not "owning" all of the employees' time".

Why do employees resort to moonlighting? There are various reasons for an employed person to take up multiple gigs - 

  1. Second source of income or financial needs
  2. Means of a job security
  3. Passion, creativity and/or interests

What do you think, should employees be allowed to have multiple jobs? 

Last updated: September 01, 2022 | 08:00
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