Context: Moonlighting has been a controversial topic in recent months after a few companies sacked their employees citing it as a reason.
What is Moonlighting?
- Moonlighting — or employees working for remuneration with entities other than their employers.
- Moonlighting is neither new nor unusual.
- The practice has been around for a while with scores of professionals such as doctors, teachers, and consultants, routinely doing so for years.
Reasons for surge in Moonlighting in recent years:
- Upcoming work structure:
- In the last few years, the prevalence of remote working, and hybrid work structures made it more mainstream in certain industries.
- Pandemic changing the work dynamic:
- During the pandemic, those with desk jobs had more time on their hands and thus it was easier to take on a few projects outside of work.
- A private study said that at least 60% of 400 employees surveyed said they themselves had or knew someone who had engaged in moonlighting.
- The superfluous employers:
- The dispensable attitude that many employers demonstrated during COVID-19 has led to an erosion of job loyalty among employees.
- Now more than ever, people are aware that organisations can give up on them, and that they must safeguard their own interests.
- Skill enhancement:
- For a lot of professionals, moonlighting has also become a way to upskill, learn new things, and ensure they don’t become redundant in their careers.
Indian companies reacting to moonlighting:
- Wipro sacked 300 employees following the discovery that they were working for rival firms on the side, leading to a conflict of interest.
- Infosys has warned staff against moonlighting, saying it could lead to termination.
- On the contrary, a few other companies like for example Swiggy announced a ‘moonlighting policy’ that allows employees “to pursue their passion for economic interests alongside their full-time employment.”
- Moonlighting in turn has raised larger questions about issues related to job loyalty, employee satisfaction, employer-employee dynamics, and the future of work in a post-pandemic world.
Legalities concerning Moonlighting
- Moonlighting is not defined in any of the statutes in India.
- However, there are enactments that deal with double employment.
- Factories Act on double employment:
- Factories Act deals with restriction on double employment stating that “No adult worker shall be required or allowed to work in any factory on any day on which he has already been working in any other factory, save in such circumstances as may be prescribed”.
- However, this enactment is applicable only to employees working in factories.
- Moonlighting is subject to the law of the land.
- The sphere of employment cannot be extended by the employer beyond working hours and outside his place of employment, which is the principle laid down in the Supreme Court judgment.
- In other words, the employee can choose to arrange his affairs as he pleases beyond the working hours of the employer.
- Punitive action against moonlighting:
- Unless an employer is able to prove that an employee acted against the interest of the company, Courts may not uphold severe punishment of termination of employment.
The court jurisdiction:
- The Courts of law in India dealing with employment are Writ Courts and Labour Courts.
- These Courts exercise jurisdiction based on equity or fairness.
- The Courts may lean in favour of the employee unless the contravention of the employee has led to serious prejudice and loss to the employer.
- Eventually, organisations need to understand that they don’t own all of their employees’ time, nor should they expect to.
- What they pay for are fixed work hours defined by targets, set out in contracts.
Call for side gig:
- Delineating clearly between side gigs for gainful employment versus projects that require data confidentiality, an ethical moonlighting policy could be an effective way for both employees and employers to meet midway.
Source: The Hindu
Previous Year Question
Q.1) In India, which one of the following compiles information on industrial disputes, closures, retrenchments and lay-offs in factories employing workers? (2022)
- Central Statistics Office
- Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade
- Labour Bureau
- National Technical Manpower Information System