Will moonlighting ever see the Sun?

(Image Courtesy : bestmediainfo)

Time is a resource which in economics, has been termed as “scarce”.

Has it always been this scarce or has our hunger for productivity made it scarce?

Our ancestors dwelled upon how time was a part of our lives, not a resource which had to be exploited like coal.

These were the times before the invention of the mechanical clock, long before time started being measured in units, where people were not ruled by someone else’s schedules, where not doing anything didn’t mean wasting time!

Then came a sudden shift in people’s mindset. A sudden need to come up with productivity hacks. Perhaps our hunger to be the most materialistic in society made us strive and settle for not one, but two jobs altogether!

Moonlighting has always been in the picture, but has only come into the limelight now.

Moonlighting is essentially the process of taking up extra responsibilities and jobs in other organizations without the knowledge of the ‘original’ employer. Etymologically designed with a reference to the ‘moon’, as the working hours of the additional job would be post the primary one which is usually when the crescent rises.

During the pandemic, several employees started looking out for additional jobs in order to sustain their current consumption levels. In July 2022, Kotak Securities had said in a study that at least 60% of 400 employees surveyed had stated that they themselves had, or knew someone who had engaged in moonlighting.

The work-from-home culture complemented this system and also helped them manage both responsibilities efficiently. 

India’s gig sector is expected to grow to over USD 455 billion by 2024.

India’s demography consists of about 7.7 million people (estimated for the year 20-21)  who work as a part of the gig economy. Post  pandemic, with the economy trying to cope from the recession, the fear of unemployment and job security have caused a tottering in the minds of the employees, especially the ones employed in the gig workforce.

Wipro’s decision to fire around 300 employees for violating the terms of employment by working for a competitor company has fueled a debate — whether moonlighting is ethical or not.

Is it right to blame the Millennials and the GenZ for looking out for other sources of income in order to survive in this ruthless, competitive and selfish world?

Undoubtedly there exists a risk of breach of confidential information and security concerns, but does signing an employment contract mean gaining over a person’s ownership and time?

Most of the agreements made while recruiting fresh employees are the same age-old fashioned, one-sided contracts which are majorly in favor of the employer.

In this dynamic industry which thrives on teaching us how to squeeze the most out of a day, perhaps establishing reasonable restrictions could help satisfy both parties.

For example – Disclosure of confidential information or working for XYZ set of companies because they are competitors is unacceptable.

They could even come to a mutual agreement on the number of hours one has to dedicate to the company, beyond which the whereabouts of the employee is of no concern to the organization. Like Swiggy has recently come up with such a policy where employees can pick up other gigs and projects that add on to their professional and mental being, subject to approvals.

This is different from Freelancing as it involves being self-employed and working as an individual by providing services to multiple organizations, whereas, moonlighting involves full/part time employment in multiple places under an employer.

(Image Courtesy : mid-day news)

Where does the Law stand?

The Indian Law doesn’t have a defined set of statements for the practice of moonlighting. However, it certainly does regulate dual or double employment to a certain extent.

Section 60 of The Factories Act, 1948, restricts an employer from allowing an adult worker to work in the factory on any day on which they have already been working in another factory.

The Industrial Employment (standing Orders) Rules, 1946 states that a workman shall not work against the interest of the industrial establishment and shall not take any additional employment that may adversely affect the interest of their employer.

Under the draft model of the Industrial Relations Code (IR) containing a similar restriction, the employer may, at their discretion, permit the worker to take up an additional job or assignment with or without conditions.

These laws certainly have limitations as these do not take into account all categories of establishments or employees.

However, one of the most controversial aspects is related to a recent policy declared by the UGC.

The University Grants Commission of India in April 2022 had announced a new policy where students were allowed to pursue two full time degrees simultaneously, be it in the online or offline mode.

If having two professional and socially acceptable certificates is the need of the hour, why is having two jobs to apply the skill sets earned, “unethical”?

Maybe it’s time to change our point of view and think of moonlighting mainly as an opportunity to fulfill our dreams and not just another source of income. There are several people in this world who were denied the ability to follow their passions perhaps due to the financial risk associated with it.

Being able to address it even as a side hustle could help them live in the present!

After all, time is a “scarce resource” and we have surely mastered the art of exploiting it just as any other resource on earth!

 – Shreya Sai Duddu

FY( B.sc Economics)

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