Employees and experts agree that there is more room for flexibility than the strong statements made by organisations about employees who have other jobs or side hustles.
Moonlighting is the reason Berty Thomas has achieved his career success. In May 2021, India opened Covid-19 vaccines to all adults. He was working at Barclays as a business analyst. It was difficult for people to obtain vaccination slots through the government’s CoWin platform. Thomas used his programming skills to create a script that could be run over CoWin’s public Application Programming Interface. This would help to identify slots available for certain age groups. The script would be run on the server and send alerts when slots become available at the nearest vaccination centre. His platform, under45.in added people to the relevant Telegram groups within their localities.
Thomas agreed that it was “round-the-clock work”, with his day starting before dawn and continuing until close to midnight. He had to manage work commitments and scheduled meetings. He also took stock of all alerts, messages, and server-side issues via the under45.in platform. Under45.in had over 41 million subscribers as of July 1, 2021. It was used in 675 districts throughout the country, helping many people to book slots and get Covid-19 vaccines.
Thomas stated that he needed to be transparent with his company. They did not have any problems with his programming, as long as it was not in conflict with his work duties and priorities. His coworkers supported his work and provided support when needed.
Thomas, 37, says that moonlighting is the best way to learn new skills and keep your job relevant. HealthifyMe soon bought Thomas’ platform. He quit his Barclays job. He is now the associate director of new initiatives for the digital health- and wellness startup and is also working on other hobbies. Moonlighting is allowed as long as you don’t work in a different industry and keep confidentiality and disclosure to the best of your ability. He says that it is the only way to grow, especially in the IT sector.
A rash of IT companies have issued strong statements in the last few weeks against moonlighting. This is the practice where you hold two additional jobs. Sandip Patel, IBM India MD, called moonlighting unethical on September 15. According to media reports, this was just days after Infosys sent an email to employees with lines such as “no two-timing” and “no double life”, warning them that they would face disciplinary action including termination. In a tweet, Rishad Premji (Wipro Chairman) stated that moonlighting was “cheating–plain an simple”.
CP Gurnani (CEO and managing director of Tech Mahindra) says that we live in a world that requires discipline and time management. “So, as long an employee is meeting the productivity and efficiency targets and not violating the ethics of the company,” he said. He also added that “If you are a millennial and can do two jobs, then you are a superhero.”
Moonlighting is not a new concept. Employees often take on a second job after work to make more money, follow their passions, improve their skills, expand their networks, and discover more career opportunities. Indian employment laws do not define this concept. Moonlighting does not necessarily refer to dual employment. This is a formal relationship between an employer and employee, with all legal obligations such as minimum wage, provident funds, gratuity, etc. You could also moonlight to pursue your passions, side hustles, or freelance work. It can happen with or without the knowledge and approval of the primary employer.
According to HR experts moonlighting is on the rise following the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. People want to make more money, despite job losses and inflation, and have more time to do so.
Employees are also making a profit in the IT industry by cashing in on the need for skilled talent. Analysts are concerned about staff churn in Indian IT companies. This is because all parties fight to attract the same set, including foreign companies with large Indian software centres, well-funded Indian startups and even a new generation from Silicon Valley to Sydney. Forbes India Report April.
Saran Balasundaram is the founder of Han Digital, a tech recruitment company. He claims that moonlighting in IT has almost quadrupled since the Covid-19 pandemic. According to him, India’s IT/BPO industry employs five-million people. Of these, 60 percent or approximately three million work in IT services. Around 2.6 million of these people, close to 88 percent, continue working at home. Balasundaram says that around 15% of the 2.6 million people have realized their roles are redundant. You’ll see that moonlighting has nearly quadrupled since the advent of gig platforms.
Moonlighting is a serious problem for companies. They fear losing productivity and data confidentiality. We do not encourage moonlighting as a company. Vivek Gupta (CEO of Mastech Digital), says that employees should be 100 percent committed to their company. He says that the concerns of employees are and will remain “productivity and sincerity” and “above all, honesty”.
Shantanu Mirajkar (CTO) of Clairvoyant India, says that moonlighting is an ethical problem. He believes employees must disclose any side hustles or freelance gigs they do outside of their primary job. If necessary, he recommends that full-time employment (FTE) be replaced by contractual agreements. This will make the employee accountable for their time and charge accordingly. He also states that employees must be held responsible for privacy and non-disclosure violations at a personal level. The employer has the right to inspect the time and productivity of employees and can be more flexible when awarding work or terminating contracts.
Thomas believes that IT service company employees are beginning to realize that their clients make large margins and that they can make a fraction just by working a few hours. He says that this is a concern for IT service companies because programmers could be working directly for clients. He says overtime pay in India is a foreign concept and that many Indian employees are not being paid enough. Moonlighting then becomes a natural option.
Han Digital’s Balasundaram says that companies should offer competitive salaries and timely incentives to keep employees motivated and fulfill their economic needs. This will reduce the likelihood of them taking on a secondary job.