Moonlighting Meaning: Moonlighting: What is it? What triggered the debate? And what is happening

The issue of moonlighting by tech professionals has ignited a fresh debate, polarizing opinions and raising thorny legal questions.

What is it?
Moonlighting refers to a side job in addition to one’s primary employment. In moonlighting, often such side jobs are taken by employees in secret, without informing the employer.

Why are IT companies against it?

Most new-age businesses are IP, know-how and data-driven, and there is always a risk of data and knowledge drain, specifically when the moonlighting is done for competing companies. Also, there is a concern that employees could be working for side jobs during office hours while working from home.

What started the debate

It was on-demand delivery platform Swiggy which introduced a “Moonlighting” policy for its employees in August this year that will let them take up external projects to make more money. Swiggy said this could encompass activity outside of office hours or on weekends that does not impact their productivity on the full-time job or have a conflict of interest with the company’s business in any way.

The justification

The overnight shift to remote working did away with long commutes, bringing relatively more fluid work schedules. It also yielded new opportunities for juggling smaller side projects in the free time for those keen enough to take them up.

When the pandemic struck, plenty of gigs from website development to app creation were up for grabs. Being short duration stints, these one-off projects were also seen by some as quick ways to supplement income. Since they did not involve full-time engagement, workers opting for such side jobs did not see it as a direct conflict of interest.

Who said what
Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji flagged the issue, equating it to “cheating”.

Tech Mahindra CEO CP Gurnani said that it is necessary to keep changing with the times and added, “I welcome disruption in the ways we work.”

Mohandas Pai Pai said that while employees should not indulge in outside work during the time committed to their companies, nor leverage intellectual property, assets or resources of their employers for other purposes, individuals’ free time is their own.

What IT firms are doing to curb moonlighting?
Indian IT major, Infosys has reportedly warned employees that moonlighting could lead to termination of services.

Earlier this month, Wipro terminated 300 employees who were found to be moonlighting with one of its key rivals at the same time.

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