Jun 1, 2021  By John Hyde

Are your work-from-home employees moonlighting

As more employees work from home, the practice of “moonlighting” – that is, working a side job in addition to full-time employment, has become easier than ever. In some industries, secondary occupations are the norm. In most, however, the practice of moonlighting is a silently growing phenomenon. Moonlighting employees are now more able than ever to fly under the radar by working on a side job from the comfort of their homes, leaving their employers none the wiser. For employers, addressing moonlighting proactively should be an easy task, but it is much more difficult by the time it has become a problem. Here is what employers need to consider regarding employee side jobs.

When moonlighting becomes daylighting.

With more and more employees working from home, common sense dictates that it is much easier for employees to pick up an extra job and, blur the boundaries between work and personal time. When this happens unchecked, time devoted to an employee’s side job can begin to creep into normal working hours, destroying productivity. In a recent study by e-conolight, around half of those interviewed reported that they had worked for another company while working from home and on the clock for their employer.

Are side jobs and moonlighting legal?

The simple answer is yes. Unless your workplace has a specific policy or practice in place that prohibits employees from working another job, they are typically free to do so. This comes as a shock to many employers, who feel that the term “full time” means just that. The reality is much different: unless your employees have agreed to devote themselves to one workplace, they can pursue other business ventures on their own time, provided doing so does not violate other written policies or agreements, such as those pertaining to confidentiality or non-solicitation.

Determining whether side jobs and moonlighting are hurting productivity.

One thing all companies should consider is the extent to which an employee’s side job duties will hurt productivity at their day job. The fact that an employee may occasionally attend to their side job while on the clock does not necessarily mean that they are losing productivity overall; studies show that the average office worker is only productive for about three hours in an eight-hour workday. For practical employers, the question is not whether an employee’s side job is causing a distraction from work duties, but how much. Much more meaningful information can be gleaned from performance indicators like sales, billable hours, or other KPIs.

Evaluating risks to confidential information from moonlighting.

For some employers, side jobs and moonlighting are simply a no-go based upon the nature of the industry. In the tech industry for instance, many employees feel that they can hold two full-time jobs, but employers remain understandably apprehensive about the risk of priceless confidential information being leaked to a competitor. It is imperative that valuable company confidential information be protected with employee confidentiality agreements – whether the company allows moonlighting or not.

Should our company allow moonlighting?

This is a more difficult question to answer. Whether your workplace should allow moonlighting is really a matter of business needs, culture, and objectives. In some industries, prohibiting side jobs can make it difficult to attract and retain the right talent. In others, working a second job is just fundamentally at odds with the requirements of the position.

Preventing moonlighting from the outset.

One way to prohibit moonlighting head-on is from the very beginning, by addressing it right in the employment agreement at hiring time. Clauses which require an employee’s “full time and attention” are typically relied upon to prohibit moonlighting, as are non-competition agreements.

Drafting an effective moonlighting/side job policy

Whatever your company’s position on moonlighting, the important thing is to make these expectations clear to employees. Failing to do so leaves the decision to your employees.

If your company is going to allow moonlighting, do so deliberately (rather than accidentally) and think about implementing it in a way that makes sense for your business. A well-drafted policy on moonlighting and side jobs will typically:

  1. require that any other business activities be disclosed prior to commencing;
  2. give employees direct guidance on which activities are acceptable and which are not; and
  3. if moonlighting is allowed, let employees know that they cannot work for a competitor company.

Contact the employment lawyers at Hyde HR Law today for assistance with drafting and implementing a moonlighting policy.

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