With IT major Wipro sacking 300 employees for moonlighting — working for rival firms while drawing full-time salaries at the software firm — industry experts on Thursday said IT companies must clarify their policies regarding employment and moonlighting as work-from-home (WFH) culture in the IT sector has apparently given rise to such work practices.
Amid the debate on what is right and what is wrong for employees who are at home and working, some leading IT and Cloud firms, afraid of backlash from employees if they go on record, told IANS that such practices are actually unethical, and WFH has kept their hands tied as they cannot monitor what their employees are doing from the boundaries of their homes.
At this moment, C.P. Gurnani, CEO and Managing Director of Tech Mahindra, has come in support of moonlighting from the big tech enterprises, saying that "If someone is meeting the efficiency and productivity norms, and wants to make some extra money, I have no problem. I would like to make it a policy. So, if you want to do it, cheers to that, but be open about it."
Shrijay Sheth, Founder, Legalwiz.in, told IANS that the issue around moonlighting is beyond just having multiple jobs.
"It is a larger issue that employers face around work ethics, integrity, and priorities. With work from home being mainstream now, moonlighting is a common secondary revenue stream. While many are ok with employees being involved in alternative activities in extended work hours, some moonlighters are actually double dipping," Sheth elaborated.
There are data-sharing and intellectual property (IP) stealing fears too.
Most of the new-age businesses are IP, know-how and data driven, and there is always a risk of data and knowledge drain, more specifically when the moonlighting is done for competing companies.
"Many businesses rightly expect their employees to be the advocates of their brand. Many even do not claim employment credentials on their public social profiles, simply because they run a competing 'freelance' business in the same domain. It is becoming highly common in ITES and other services industries," Sheth noted.
It was on-demand delivery platform Swiggy that introduced a new "Moonlighting" policy last month for its employees 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.
And all hell broke loose.
Mohandas Pai, former Director of Infosys, feels that "moonlighting is not cheating".
"Employment is a contract between an employer who pays me for working for them for 'n' number of hours a day. Now what I do after that time is my freedom, I can do what I want," according to Pai.
TCS has also called moonlighting an ethical issue. Infosys issued a letter to employees strictly prohibiting them from practicing moonlighting, saying "No two-timing, no moonlighting, and no double lives".
The IT major has sent an email to its employees, saying it is mandatory now for all to work from the office at least three days a week.
Amid the brouhaha over moonlighting in India, cloud major IBM last week made it clear that the practice is not ethical and the company does not promote such behaviour at the workplace.
According to Sheth, it is best for the businesses to clarify their policies.
"Employment contracts should explicitly define employers' tolerance to moonlighting and provide guidelines as to what is acceptable, if at all. That can help in formally easing up the conflicts and frictions around the issue," he noted.
However, a shocked workforce of millions, working from home, can revolt against their bosses if more firing episodes happen within the IT firms' ranks.
(Nishant Arora can be reached at email@example.com)20220922-191803