Moonlighting made headlines after food-aggregator platform Swiggy early August allowed employees to work on external projects for money or pro-bono subject to certain guidelines and restrictions.

What is Moonlighting?

Moonlighting refers to employees taking up a second job or work assignments during normal work hours or outside them. Most companies in India prohibit staff from taking up additional jobs over concerns like conflicts of interest, job performance, or misuse of an employer’s resources.

The debate around moonlighting has divided the industry, drawing sharp reactions. Swiggy said a significant portion of the working population discovered new hobbies and perhaps even an activity that provides an additional source of income during the Covid-19 lockdowns. The company believes that working on such projects can significantly contribute to both the professional and personal development of an individual.

But a few days later, on August 20th, Wipro Chairman trashed the idea of moonlighting in the tech industry, calling it “cheating – plain and simple”.

The trend caught up during the two years of the pandemic — when work from home became a norm. A survey of 400 people across the IT and ITeS space by Kotak Institutional Equities in July revealed that an astounding 65% of the respondents knew of people pursuing part-time opportunities or moonlighting while working from home.

Arjun Ramaraju, CEO, Conneqt Digital says, like WFH, views on moonlighting too will evolve. Staff take up projects secretly in absence of rules. Firms should not be dismissive of innovative options.

But the IT industry is not convinced. Infosys on Monday sent an email to its employees reminding them that dual employment is not permitted under the company’s Employee Handbook and Code of Conduct.

Infosys also highlighted a clause from its offer letter which states that employees cannot take up such assignments without the company’s consent.

The IT major said that the consent may be given subject to any terms and conditions that the company may think fit and may be withdrawn at any time at the discretion of the company.

“No Two-Timing – No Moonlighting – No Double Lives” – the email proclaimed, adding that any violation of the clause may lead to termination.

Will companies adopting moonlighting policies have an edge in attracting talent relative to those who bar it?

Ramaraju of Conneqt Digital says, firms with moonlighting policy can attract high end talent. This is similar to internal crowdsourcing policy. Coders saving on commuting time choose to take up paid gigs

Pune-based IT union NITES said the clause cited by Infosys in its mailer was arbitrary in nature and emphasised that “what the employees do outside working hours is their prerogative”.

Tech Mahindra’s CP Gurnani tweeted recently that it is necessary to keep changing with the times and that he “welcomes disruption in the ways we work.” He said that employees meeting their efficiency and productivity targets should be free to make the extra buck as long as there is transparency.

India Inc should see this as the right time to participate in the debate and be receptible to multiple perspectives, including those of the workforce.

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