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moonlighting: After IT, other services firms taking a relook at moonlighting policy

The debate over moonlighting is no longer limited to the IT industry; some business leaders across services sectors are weighing the pros and cons of allowing their employees to engage in external gigs amid rising demand, HR lawyers and consultants said.

A few Indian and multinational companies in services – including banking, insurance, call centres and organisations engaged in customer relations, product development, and marketing – are reviewing their existing policies to explore the scope of allowing employees to take up work opportunities outside of the company as long as it does not lead to a conflict of interest, experts and top company officials said.

“Companies across the other services sector besides IT and ITeS are seeking avenues and contemplating allowing side vocation that can get additional income for the employee, but at the same time does not conflict with what the person will do during the day part of his ordinary work schedule,” said Anshul Prakash, partner, employment, labour and benefits, at law firm Khaitan & Co.

Some companies are engaging with specialists to understand the conflict areas if their employees engage in moonlighting and if it is not overtly unethical or conflicted with their assigned role and responsibilities. These firms are considering a slightly flexible policy perspective on employees pursuing other interests after work hours, people aware of the developments told ET.

While several top
IT companies came down heavily on moonlighters earlier and stepped up their vigil to prevent employees from engaging in dual employment, there is also increasing resistance from sections of employees, especially the younger ones, including outbursts on social media platforms.

Those supporting moonlighting are of the view that employees should be allowed to use their skills and earn beyond their “billable” eight hours at work.

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“It is not about whether you are doing another job but what you can and what you cannot do, and that is what some companies are looking at now,” said Atul Gupta, partner at law firm Trilegal. “Many companies are taking another look at whether they have gone overboard with their old restrictive policies.”

Many are now open to the view that employees should be allowed “to engage in activities that do not pose business risk to existing employers”, Gupta said.

Meanwhile, in the IT space, too, some business leaders are considering relaxing their policies.

“Several IT companies have strict contracts with employees stating that a person cannot work with any other company while with the current employer,” said Nitin Bhatt, technology sector leader at consulting firm EY. “Many companies are having a relook at these old clauses to find out if they could bring about some changes in their policies that allows employees to engage in another employment…as long as it is not conflicting with the current line of business as well as with proper disclosure and clearance from line manager,” he said.

Vineet Nayar, former CEO of HCL Tech, said: “There are two aspects to moonlighting – the conflict of interest and the fact that employees do something outside of their eight hours. From the conflict of interest point of view companies have to be steadfast, but (they should) allow employees to do moonlighting where there is no conflict. It will lead to significant motivation and engagement among employees.”

Tech Mahindra is looking at
introducing a new moonlighting policy, while HCL Tech said
it does not support dual employment.

An HCL spokesperson, however, added, “People do have personal interests, hobbies, somebody wants to pursue this in their free time. That is something we leave to individual choices.”

TCS, Infosys, and Wipro did not respond to ET’s query until press time Tuesday.

One possible challenge of multiple work engagements or gigs that top officials at companies are talking about is the potential impact on productivity.

“Hence, companies that allow employment flexibility would double down on tracking any negative trends in productivity and delivery quality,” said Bhatt of EY.

Some companies are looking at new work modes that could enable moonlighting.

There is more openness towards various flexible modes of work, said Ramesh Alluri Reddy, director at staffing firm Adecco India.

Ankita Ray, partner at law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, said some companies in the IT sector are exploring alternate work models.

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