Moonlighting is the practice of doing paid work in addition to one’s regular employment. It can refer to a high school teacher who also gives private tuition after school hours, a doctor who takes shifts at multiple locations, or even a software developer who spends after-work hours on building a startup.
There are multiple reasons for people to moonlight. In most cases, these people are seeking supplementary income. Others might do it for professional and personal growth. Yet others seek it as an opportunity for innovation and experiment with new ideas. For some, moonlighting is necessary and even admirable.
However, there are ethical and legal risks that professionals encounter when they take on additional work as professionals. These employees are likely to encounter a conflict of interest, especially if their moonlighting activities are in direct conflict with their employer’s goal or if their performance is negatively impacted.
Having said this, companies have widely different policies regarding moonlighting. Some companies restrict it while there are some companies that encourage it seeing the benefits of such self-directed labour. They have moonlighting clauses within their employment contracts. The terms of these clauses can differ, depending on the company and their businesses.
Purpose and Policy Brief of Moonlighting
Generally, most companies discourage outside employment. However, newer trends are emerging and the global effect of the Covid-19 pandemic has left people with very little choice. So, instead of an outright refusal, companies have worked to build a policy around moonlighting.
The purpose of this policy is to retain talent within the company while allowing them to supplement their income without compromising on the company’s goals or intellectual property. There are rules which are inbuilt in such a policy that safeguard the company’s interests without encroaching on the employee’s off-duty hours.
Scope of Moonlighting Policy
The scope of building such a policy revolves around the employees of the company to whom this policy refers. Usually, such a policy refers to full-time and part-time salaried employees, keeping contractual employees outside the realm of this policy.
Additionally, this policy applies to lawful activities. If any employee is found to be engaging in any illegal activity (e.g., fraud, drug dealing), it can result in immediate termination. The company may even take legal action against an employee for using the company’s equipment, resources, or information to support any illegal activities.
Policy Elements of Moonlighting
A company can insist on transparency regarding the nature of its employees' secondary jobs. This is to prevent conflict with their main job. The primary employer may have conditions that need to be agreed upon by the employee who wishes to take up a secondary job. These conditions include:
- The secondary job must not be with the company’s direct competitor.
- The secondary job’s work or project must not overlap with the primary employment.
- The secondary job’s time must not intrude upon the primary job.
- The nature of the secondary job must not create a conflict of interest with the primary job.
- If the employee is starting a new business that competes with his or her current employment, that is considered a conflict of interest and may result in immediate termination.
- The secondary job profile must not affect the performance levels of the primary job.
- The primary job’s confidentiality clause will remain in effect at all times while working the secondary job.
However, randomly working or helping out at a family business, freelancing, or even doing voluntary work do not count as secondary jobs and are usually exempt from such policies.
Violation of Moonlighting Policy
Depending on the nature of business of the company that provides primary employment, their violation policies may differ in nature. Performance issues, attendance issues, disclosure of sensitive and confidential information, or working directly with competition can all be considered as violations and may carry different aspects of disciplinary action. The company can take actions like:
- Legal action.
- Ask to quit the secondary job with immediate effect.
- Issue an official reprimand and/or launch a disciplinary process.
- Terminate employment with immediate effect.
Swiggy’s Moonlighting Policy
Swiggy is one of the first companies in India that has introduced such a progressive approach towards moonlighting. Their policy is available to all full-time employees of Bundl Technologies, its subsidiaries, affiliates, associates, and group companies.
Girish Menon, Head of HR at Swiggy said - “Swiggy has always strived to understand the diverse aspirations of its employees and to design its organisational policies to suit their evolving needs. With the Moonlighting Policy, our goal is to encourage employees to pursue their passion without any constraints due to their full-time employment with us. This is yet another step in our journey towards building a world-class ‘people first’ organisation.”
This one-of-its-kind moonlight policy allows their full-time employees to take up external projects, subject to approval from Swiggy’s internal team. These external projects can be taken on economic or pro-bono consideration. Of course, as per Swiggy’s company policy, this work has to be taken outside of regular working hours without allowing it to conflict with Swiggy’s business interests.
Pros and Cons of Moonlighting
As a concept, moonlighting means additional work that is over and above the primary job. What this also means is that an individual puts in that many additional hours of work physically or mentally. Moonlighting has its own advantages and disadvantages.
- Additional income
- Upskilling or instilling of new skills
- Learning multitasking
- Expansion of exposure
- Fatigue can set in quickly.
- Adverse effect on primary job performance.
- It can pose a risk to primary career.
- Work-life balance can be negatively impacted.
While the concept of moonlighting is old in the western world, it is a new and growing concept in India, particularly in the IT sector. Particularly, in the last couple of years, fuelled by the pandemic, many professionals opted for moonlighting in view of job losses and layoffs.
Furthermore, the idea of supplementing income, especially with the work-from-home culture, is extremely appealing due to the extra time at one’s disposal. Moonlighting along with a primary day job is all about smart time management.
What is meant by moonlighting by employees?
In simple terms, moonlighting by employees is an act of taking up additional jobs, especially outside the knowledge of one's main employer.
Do companies allow moonlighting?
Mostly, companies do not allow their employees to moonlight due to reasons like poor performance issues, attendance issues, disclosure of sensitive and confidential information, or conflict of interest.
What is Swiggy's moonlighting policy?
In August 2022, Swiggy announced the introduction of a moonlighting policy for its employees. This policy allows their full-time employees to take up external projects, subject to approval from Swiggy’s internal team. As per Swiggy’s company policy, this work has to be taken outside of regular working hours without allowing it to conflict with Swiggy’s business interests.