Wipro recently sacked 300 employees for “an act of integrity violation”. Moonlighting has been the talk of the town, and this recent development at the major tech giant has brought the term into further limelight. From LinkedIn to Twitter, there has been an uproar about moonlighting.
A light on moonlighting
To put it simply, moonlighting refers to the phenomenon where an employee picks up side hustles or alternate jobs while working at their full-time job. The pandemic and the inevitable shift to work-from-home have allowed a lot of people to take up side hustles. But as the offices are reopening, moonlighting is becoming a point of concern to many major IT firms in the country.
In an interview, Wipro’s Executive Chairman Rashid Premji called moonlighting “plain and simple cheating.”
Following suit, Infosys too made it clear to their employees that moonlighting was banned. To make matters clear, the company HR released an email saying “Remember – NO TWO-TIMING – NO MOONLIGHTING”.
The discourse surrounding moonlighting turned into a debate when CP Gurnani of Tech Mahindra tweeted: “My thoughts on the trending 'M word'... It's necessary to keep changing with the times, and as always, I welcome disruption in the ways we work”.
The bane and the boon
While many senior-level employees in IT firms are making it clear that moonlighting is unethical and should not be promoted, entry-level and mid-level employees are of the opinion that it shouldn’t concern a company what their employees do in their free time.
For many, moonlighting is a way of pursuing their passions that have been sidelined because of their main hustle. For others, it is a way of earning an extra income to supplement their main one. It is also a great way of earning holistic experience and upskilling while pursuing one’s main job.
But, there is a legal complication. A lot of companies, when hiring their employees, stipulate clearly that the said employee cannot work at any other organisation. As per a report in TOI, Vikram Shroff, head of HR law practice at Nishith Desai Associates said that restrictions on dual employment in India are included in labour laws (concerning factories) and certain employment standing orders.
Bhagyashree Pancholy, legal advisor at All Remotely told Moneycontrol, “As per the Labour Law in India, if you are fully employed, you cannot have your own business or even work elsewhere. However, people have found ways to circumvent this.”
Swiggy vs Wipro
While August saw Wipro take a clear stance on this trend, Swiggy sat on the opposite end of the rope. The food delivery giant introduced a moonlighting policy for its employees in a bid to be more employee-centric. According to a report by the Firstpost, Girish Menon, head of HR at Swiggy,
“Swiggy has always strived to understand the diverse aspirations of its employees and to design its organisational policies to suit their evolving needs. With the Moonlighting Policy, our goal is to encourage employees to pursue their passion without any constraints due to their full-time employment with us.”
The company stated that as long as their employees’ side hustle did not interfere with their work at Swiggy, moonlighting is encouraged. Although, some cases might require internal approvals to ensure that the company’s interests were not at risk.
Why is the IT sector at war
From school teachers to writers, graphic designers to doctors, professionals have been moonlighting for years. It is only recently that the working populace of the IT sector could follow suit on this trend. But why is the IT industry having such a hard time grappling with their employees’ choices? Whatever they do outside their working hours should be their personal choice, should it not?
Business Insider India decoded the IT industry’s problem with moonlighting, and it is more deep-rooted than we could imagine. Low appraisal rates, ascending attrition rates, and poor work-life balance among employees of the said industry are not unheard of.
As per some Quora responses, IT industry employees have a high time on floor, with 8 hours being the average among some tech giants. Time on floor is the number of hours an employee spends working, excluding breaks.
So when an employee takes up a side hustle, they won’t be able to labour for their primary employer any longer. The practice also puts their current firm’s security at risk. The problem becomes aggravated when an employee chooses to work for a competing firm.
Te most prevalent practice among tech firms is to hire freshers for their entry-level jobs while giving little benefits to existing employees.
According to a Moneycontrol report published by Business Insider, Between 2012 and 2022 the salary of the CEO of Infosys grew from ₹80 lakh to ₹79.75 crore, while that of freshers rose from ₹2.75 lakh to ₹3.6 lakh.
The disparity is enough to depict the current state of young IT professionals.
With little employee engagement, almost no benefits, and severely impacted work-life balance, IT industries need to look within to combat the problem of moonlighting. While some experts suggest that the onus lies on these firms to read the writing on the wall and make changes in their structure to accept the new norm on moonlighting, others like Wipro's chairman are all out for taking drastic action.
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