#WhatTheFAQ: Two-timing or a harmless side-hustle? What on Earth is moonlighting?

Swiggy has announced an open moonlighting policy for all its employees, raising quite a few eyebrows and a good bit of curiosity over what it is all about. We take a look
Pic: Edexlive
Pic: Edexlive

Moonlighting. A term that has bemused the corporate class in India. Ever since Swiggy, the food delivery giant, announced that it would allow its employees to work other jobs outside of their working hours for Swiggy, the concept of moonlighting has found itself at the heart of a rather divisive debate. Here are all the ins and outs you need to know on the matter.

What is moonlighting?
Simply put, moonlighting is when an employee works a second job outside of his work hours for one company on whose payroll he already is. This could either be a second job, a business or even an extension of a hobby, such as playing in a rock band. 

Why did Swiggy allow its employees to moonlight?
According to a blog post written by a Swiggy Human Resources professional, employees will now have Swiggy's support to pick up additional jobs apart from their work at Swiggy as long as it does not affect their productivity and does not create a conflict of interest. The additional catch was that workers will have to declare the additional jobs taken up by them and Swiggy would then categorise these into jobs that require specific professional knowledge and those that are "non-professional" interests or hobbies. 

Swiggy has recognised moonlighting as a practice that has continued for quite some years now and has said that giving employees the freedom to do so and put it on the record would be a win-win for all. Interestingly, Swiggy had earlier this year announced a permanent Work-From-Home/Anywhere policy for most of its staff positions.

Has moonlighting been around for long?
Who wouldn't want to make a quick buck on the side? Even though many private companies in India and abroad, in the US, for example, have prohibited employees from embarking on side-hustles, instances have come to light of individuals taking on an extra job. Reports suggest that this trend has ballooned since the COVID-19 pandemic, where people were required to work from their homes. 

Is it legal in India?
While Section 60 of the Factories Act, 1948, states that no adult worker is allowed to work at a factory when he is already employed at another factory, the lines blur when it comes to white-collar jobs. The Factories Act does not apply to IT companies in some states and it has often been left to the courts to decide whether or not it was legal for an employee to work a second job when they do get caught. 

What criticisms does moonlighting face?
Chairman of Wipro, Rishad Premji, has called moonlighting plain and simple "cheating". Some HR professionals say that moonlighting puts the confidentiality of trade secrets of companies at risk. And if people are working during the time they are supposed to be free, and rejuvenate, it could eventually have an impact on their overall productivity. Despite these concerns, it remains to be seen whether other companies will follow Swiggy's lead and enable their workers to declare their side-hustles.

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