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What is Moonlighting? Why is it in the News?

Moonlighting, the act of engaging in more than one job secretly, is the new trending topic in the IT Industry. Work from home trend and the entire remote work model has been one of the key elements causing a drastic rise in moonlighting.

While employees benefit from extra income options, employers are concerned and sometimes face productivity losses as they cannot track performance in a remote environment. Meanwhile, employees also struggle with tax calculations if their extra income is taxable to earn their income as a salary.

As a consequence, complex tax issues are raising demands for CA’s among people taking up more than one job. Income and tax records are loopholes to unveil the dual job at an individual organizational level. Companies across the globe respond differently to moonlighting.

The moonlight debate has divided organizations into 1) Those who want to accommodate policies around it; 2) Those against it and 3) Those who are looking to utilize this extra potential of employees for their own organisations.

The leaders in favor of ‘Moonlighting’ consider it to be inevitable for reasons like:

  • Growing salary disparity among IT professionals.

  • Restricted growth and opportunities in the organization.

  • Booming startup culture acting as a root of side hustles.

  • High market competition and mediocre skill set obstructing growth.

  • Multiple or long-term financial commitments.

While some firms consider it to be an unethical practice and an obstacle to their business for reasons like:

  • Divulging in trade secrets or gaining access to confidential information.

  • Decline in work quality due to increased workload or professional juggle.

  • Data and confidentiality breach.

  • Utilizing primary organizations resources for a second job.

  • Revenue and productivity loss.

The IT talent crunch driven by rapid digital advancements is a crucial element of rise in the gig market. The pandemic has also been an important catalyst of the gig market. The gig economy has seen growth in the past two years.

Platforms such as Flexjobs, Upwork and Fiverr have been at the center of the gig economy. They provide small-time work or projects for freelancers, consultants, or companies looking to connect. Such platforms have not just helped freelancers make a living out of them, but also have enabled regular employees to spend additional hours, beyond their work hours, to earn more.

Firms’ Perspectives on Moonlighting

The debate on Moonlighting among Indian IT and corporate companies includes varied perspectives on the subject. For example, Swiggy, Tech Mahindra, Infosys, IBM are among a bunch of companies that have responded positively, supporting Moonlighting. While companies like Wipro, TCS, HCL are trying to figure out how to make their employees ethically bind with their companies, by highlighting the legal aspect of dual work.

On the other hand, Former HCL CEO, Vineet Nayar deems moonlighting to be inevitable and suggests that it should be regulated to preserve confidentiality. Siva Bikkina, CEO, TechDoQuest (TDQ) says that it can be streamlined by defining policies around it and discussing the do’s and don'ts with employees. He adds that if organizations can reach out to moonlighters and utilize their skill set and extra time, it would be a win-win deal for both parties.

Meanwhile, CEO of NTT India, Avinash Joshi, opines that things would be easier, if organizations can figure out a way to deal with conflict of interest.

Stringent background checks ahead?

During the pandemic, employee verification or background checks had plummeted due to remote work and lockdowns. However, the rise of Moonlighting cases in the IT industry has brought back focus on background verification.. Strengthening the authentication criteria, organizations are moving beyond Provident Fund checks to track employees who are doing gig work. IT giants such as Accenture & Cognizant have fired employees in recent times for submitting fraudulent documents.

With moonlighting compelling stringent hiring and background checks overtime, the future of employees who indulge in such malpractices may be in shambles as moonlight is yet to evolve, going further!

(Author: This article is written by Priyal Jain & Alisha Fernandes at TechDoQuest, a Canadian IT Services Company. )

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