Indian IT takes Moonlighting Seriously

Wipro fired close to 300 employees over moonlighting.
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Moonlighting has been the talk of the town lately. 

While a few companies are fairly progressive with the idea of moonlighting as long as it doesn’t get in the way of their work or impact the business, a large majority of Indian IT companies are stringently opposed to the idea. 

The moonlighting frenzy began after Wipro chairman Rishad Premji said that moonlighting in the tech industry is plain and simple cheating. This statement by Wipro’s chairman sparked a fierce debate, more so because the Indian IT sector has been dealing with unprecedented attrition and talent crunch. The company fired close to 300 employees over the ‘moonlighting’ faux pas. 

Many companies are now looking at developing a moonlighting policy to cull any complications at work—be it a conflict of interest, misuse of the company’s assets, intellectual properties (IPs), etc. Earlier this month, Infosys sent out a reminder mail to its employees stating that people taking up dual employment or moonlighting would be terminated as it violates the employee code of conduct. 

Former director of Infosys Mohandas Pai had previously said that employees are bound by an employment agreement and its terms; however, apart from that, they are free to do what they want as long as they are not using the company’s IP, its assets or anything else. He also said that companies need to ask employees the reason for moonlighting first, if any.  

TCS, on the other hand, is also a bit sceptical about moonlighting. N Ganapathy Subramaniam, the COO at TCS, said that moonlighting is an ethical issue and that the IT industry is likely to lose out in the long term. 

Tracking moonlighting employees 

In the backdrop of moonlighting menace, many companies are taking preventive measures to mitigate/curb moonlighting. Mphasis, for instance, said that it is keeping a close eye on its employees. The company is comparing provident fund data of its employees to verify additional sources of income.

Srikanth Karra, chief human resources officer at Mphasis, told Mint that they have started to check the provident fund of its employees. If they find anything suspicious, the employees are questioned. 

The company has identified high-risk profiles within its workforce and has held internal discussions to curb moonlighting. The company noted that middle management with three to six years of experience was involved in moonlighting. This includes people between the ages of 26 to 27 years, newly married, etc.

In another instance, identity verification platform IDfy noted that a growing number of IT firms are seeking help to detect moonlighting—i.e., nearly 40–50% of its IT clients want to know if their employees are moonlighting. This includes checking data from the employee provident fund office to see if there are credits from any other firm.  

Moonlighting, really 

While Wipro’s chairman Rishad Premji has been one of the early voices against moonlighting, it has stirred a whole new debate, questioning if ‘moonlighting’ applies only to employees, and not employers. 

Embracing Moonlighting

Conversely, Tech Mahindra chief CP Gurnani has been open to the idea of moonlighting. He believes it is necessary to keep up with the changing times and welcomes the idea of any disruption in how people work. 

IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar also supported the idea of moonlighting, stating that this is the future of work. At the Public Affairs Forum of India, he said that this is the era of employee–entrepreneurs, and companies need to embrace the change in the minds and attitudes of the young Indian tech workforce. 

Further, he said that the days when employees signed up with big tech majors, spending their lives on the job, were long gone. Also, he added that companies expecting their employees to work only for them and not work on their startups are destined to fail. 

Moonlighting, the future of work

Moonlighting, or working multiple jobs, is not a new concept. Simply put, moonlighting refers to the practice of working a second job that very often gets done at night under the light of the moon or outside normal business hours. 

As per a survey by Kotak Institutional Equities, nearly 65% of IT employees know someone who is moonlighting or pursuing part-time opportunities while working a full-time job. Many experts believe that moonlighting in IT companies should be normalised as long as there is justice to the work an individual signed up for. 

At a policy level, most IT companies do not use the word ‘moonlighting,’ but the contract warns its employees from breaching the contract or pursuing freelancing gigs while working for the company. 

It’s also high time for the government to formulate a ‘Moonlighting Policy,’ similar to the four-day workweek adoption/implementation. It becomes really important to give it a legal structure, alongside defining the rules and norms, before things get out of hand. 

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