Sunday, October 2nd, 2022

What Is Moonlighting? Here’s Why Wipro Fired 300 Employees For Doing It

Wipro has sacked around 300 employees for ‘moonlighting’ as the IT services firm toughens its stand against staffers taking a second job after work hours.

Its chairman Rishad Premji said the company has no place for any employee who chooses to work directly with rivals while being on Wipro payrolls.

Wipro is not the only company that has raised concerns against ‘moonlighting’, a few days ago, even IBM warned against the latest trend.

Moonlighting is a “complete violation of integrity in its deepest form,” he said.

“The reality is that there are people today working for Wipro and working directly for one of our competitors and we have actually discovered 300 people in the last few months who are doing exactly that,” Premji said.

Later when quizzed about action taken against the 300 employees, he said services have been terminated in those specific instances of violation.

It’s not the Indian tech firms facing the issue, the term ‘moonlighting’ is prevalent in other countries as well where people are looking to supplement their income with assignments outside their work.

What Is Moonlighting?

Moonlighting means taking up a second job or multiple other work assignments apart from one’s full-time job. Companies have opposed the practice, saying that employees doing multiple jobs can impact their productivity.

Moonlighting has become a topic of debate in the IT industry as working from home became the normal norm during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is believed to have led to a rise in dual employment.

However, Indian IT firms are divided when it comes to moonlighting. For some, it’s unethical while others call it the need of the hour

Tata Consultancy Services’ chief operating officer (CFO) NG Subramaniam has termed it an ethical issue. Infosys has also warned its employees against taking up a second job without letting the company know. In one of the recent emails sent by the HR department to employees, Infosys highlighted that all its employees must read their employment contracts before taking up an alternative job. In fact, the company also warned employees of termination if they take up a second job during or post-working hours. On September 15, IBM India MD Sandip Patel called moonlighting unethical.

Meanwhile, Tech Mahindra CEO CP Gurnani said he could be open to the practice if it helps employees make extra money. 

“If you actually look at the definition of moonlighting, it is having a second job secretively I’m all about transparency. As a part of transparency, individuals in organisations can have very candid conversations,” Premji said at an event, reiterating that current employees working for rival firms are a “complete violation of integrity in its deepest form”.

Mohandas Pai also disagrees with Premji on the issue. The former director of Infosys does not consider moonlighting “cheating”.“Employment is a contract between an employer who pays me for working for them for ‘n’ number of hours a day. Now what I do after that time is my freedom, I can do what I want,” Business Today quoted him as saying.

Does Any Law Prevent Dual Employment?

There is no law that prevents dual employment, Newsminute quoted IT employees’ unions as saying. They argue that in the absence of overtime pay and regulation of employment contracts, IT employees have the right to disconnect from their primary job after the committed work hours and engage in other projects either for additional income or for developing skills, or to pursue other interests outside their job. 

Moonlighting is not defined under any statute in Indian employment laws. Moonlighting is also not necessarily dual employment, which is a formal employer-employee relationship, complete with legal obligations like minimum wage, provident fund, gratuity etc. It could also be side hustles or freelancing which can be with or without the knowledge of the primary employer.

Swiggy earlier announced an “industry first” policy that allowed moonlighting for its employees. “Any project or activity that is taken up outside office hours or on the weekend, without affecting productivity, and does not have a conflict of interest, can be picked up by the employees,” Swiggy said.

Moonlighting could be considered cheating if an employee’s contract calls for non-compete and single employment, which is the situation with the majority of conventional employment contracts. However, it is not cheating if the employment contracts do not have such a clause or provide relaxations.

What Are Companies’ Concerns?

The primary concerns companies have against moonlighting is data and confidentiality breaches, and loss of productivity. 

Moonlighting may give employees the opportunity to divulge trade secrets if they are working in a similar industry and job.

Employees need to understand the importance of maintaining confidential information that could benefit a competing organization.

If employees are working long hours, the second job may cause the employee to become distracted, unproductive, and neglect job responsibilities because of physical fatigue.

Employees may use company resources for their second job which increases operating expenses.

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