Moonlighting is the latest headache for software companies

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Posted: Date Posted – 3:16 PM, Mon – Sep 19, 22

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Hyderabad: The covid-19 pandemic has given IT workers sleepless nights as many companies announced mass layoffs and hiring freezes during the lockdown. Consequently, the stress of losing a job forced employees to take on side jobs during the lockdown. This practice of taking a side job (also called moonlighting) has sparked a discussion about its legality in India.

The work-from-home model has helped employees hide their duplication from their employers, but now that companies are calling their employees back to their offices, the concern should soon ease.

The pandemic opened the doors to gig work opportunities as everything moved online. So there was a huge demand for gig workers in different sectors, especially in the information technology, finance and e-commerce sectors.

Recently, Infosys and IBM warned their employees against moonlighting. Last month, Wipro President Azim Premji also described moonlighting as cheating in a tweet. However, Swiggy’s recent policy contrasts with statements made by the IT giants, as it is clear that its employees can fill the side jobs.

What is moonlight?

It is a practice of taking a second job in addition to a regular job, especially at night and on weekends. According to industry experts, this is one of the main reasons why people do not want to return to offices.

Over the past two years, Moonlighting has become a thorn in the flesh of IT companies. An IT employee from Bengaluru was simultaneously working for seven companies. In another incident, an employee of a reputable IT company refused to return to the office, which forced the employer to order a forensic investigation. The investigation revealed that he worked for another company without resigning from the current company and shared crucial data via email.

Is it legal in India to hold several jobs at the same time?

There is a difference of opinion between business and white collar workers on this issue. HR legal experts say a company can block an employee from taking on a second job.

Software companies have previously raised concerns about employees sharing valuable and confidential information with other companies, especially their competitors. Other concerns include the exploitation of company resources and a decline in an employee’s performance.

According to the Factories Act, Section 60, there is a restriction on dual employment in India. The same is also mentioned in the Shops and Establishments Act. However, each state has its own acts and rules which may change from state to state. In most cases, IT companies have been exempted from certain sections of the laws, including duplication. They are allowed to exercise their own employment initiatives.

An employee must read the clauses mentioned in the employment contract and comply with the policies and procedures of the companies. An employee can be dismissed if a clause in his contract prevents him from taking up a second job. The question of legality entirely depends on the conditions of employment, agreed upon by the employer and the employee.

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