Employer vs Employee: The Silent War of Moonlighting

Employer vs Employee: The Silent War of Moonlighting

“An employee moonlighting is a complete violation of integrity in its deepest form.” said Wipro chairman Rishad Premji. Wipro recently sacked 300 employees for moonlighting outside office hours. IBM India MD Sandip Patil also sent a strong message discouraging employees from moonlighting.

This is not only limited to Wipro or IBM. Organizations all over the world have a strong negative attitude toward their employees moonlighting. But on the other hand, employees of all kinds support it. Moonlighting supplements the income and interest of tens of thousands too. Many people spoke up, claiming that their low pay is the primary reason they start freelancing and other side-hustles.

Who’s right, who’s wrong? Employers or employees? Moonlighting has sparked a huge debate ever since the Wipro layoff.

But first, what is Moonlighting?

In the words of Outlook India, ‘Moonlighting refers to when a person holds one or more jobs outside of their primary job.’ One could work full-time for an organization but also engage in another side-hustle to earn extra cash or follow a passion. This concept is not new; however, the debate raging all over the internet is.

The work-from-home culture since COVID-19 has led to a rise in moonlighting practices. Employees talk about it as the need of the hour, while companies across the globe have divided opinions. Some employers prefer hiring freelancers because of their flexibility, while most consider it a serious breach of trust and integrity.

The term “moonlighting” is specially used when someone works at a second job without letting their primary employer know about it. It can also be coined as ‘freelancing’ and ‘side-hustle’. According to a survey by Kotak Institutional Equities, nearly 65 percent of IT employees know someone who is pursuing part-time opportunities or moonlighting while working a full-time job.

Employee Moonlight: What are their views?

Former director of Infosys, Mohandas Pai, said, “Employment is a contract between an employer who pays me for working ‘n’ number of hours a day. During that time, I have to abide by their conditions…Now what I do after that time is my freedom, I can do what I want.”

This statement has true logic and supports the voice of thousands of employees. The world’s in a recession, people need more money than ever, and nobody wants to do multiple jobs willingly. If someone is working odd hours for extra money, then there is something seriously wrong with the organization they’re working at. The pay, obviously!

Why do employees resort to moonlighting? 

There may be numerous reasons for an employee to take up multiple jobs –

  1. Financial needs
  2. Means of a job security
  3. Generate multiple income sources
  4. Passion, creativity, and/or interests

Moreover, even if the pay at the primary job is more than sufficient, no law prohibits one from pursuing any side-hustle outside office hours, especially for white-collar jobs.

An employment contract is signed only for a designated number of hours per day. The rest of the time is one’s own; no one has the right to own it, not even the primary employer.

However, there is a clause in some employment contracts that prohibits employees from working with another company, part-time or full-time. Moonlighting breaks this very clause.

Employer Viewpoint: Why companies oppose Moonlighting?

The primary concern of a company is the decreased productivity of an employee at work. Companies worry that dividing time between two or more jobs affects one’s ability to produce quality work. Dual employment also leads to dual pressure and deadline stress, which hinders quality work.

Other side effects of side-hustles that may have a direct impact on businesses include fatigue, conflict of interest, and information breach. If looked at logically, these all make sense. If we try to put ourselves in employers’ shoes, we too may want to discourage moonlighting. But as frustrated employees, we won’t. Yeah, double standards.

The point here is that employers need to manage things on a larger scale. As a result, they expect every hired employee to produce productive, ethical, and high-quality work.

All this “strict opposition” is applicable to old-age companies. The new-age companies, on the other hand, think that morality and ethics should evolve over time. Many employers like Swiggy have come forward in favor of moonlighting, provided the employees respect their primary employment at the firm.

What’s the solution to this Side-hustle chaos?

The growing number of workers choosing to moonlight will not decline, whatever the reason. Hence, the underlying policies regarding employee moonlighting need to be reformed. These should include the primary needs of an employee during the primary job, do’s and don’ts.

It’s evident that whatever policies a company comes up with are in its best interests. However, companies must address employees’ needs during 9-to-5 and their freedom outside office hours. Also, companies need to address one of the key reasons why employees go moonlighting: compensation.

Similarly, employees can’t use any of their primary employer’s time or resources for another job. It is important and ethical not to mix jobs. If employee moonlighting is indeed the need of the hour, then so be it. But there is always a way to take the ethical road.


Employee Moonlighting is an outcome of differences between both employers and employees. However, the majority (employees) often blame it on their employers, low compensation, and lack of interest. And that’s true for the most part. Reasons like these drive people to take up secondary jobs.

The quickest way to alleviate the pain of moonlighting is to think more about employees. In a survey by Indeed, 50% of the respondents confirmed that their main reason for moonlighting is the increased cost of living. The others were increased healthcare expenses, exploring a new career, culture, etc.

The work culture, compensation, and benefits need to be taken care of by companies if they want loyal employees. Employers also need to understand that whatever employees do outside of office hours is not in their control. If an employee devotes 9 to 5 to quality and productive work, that’s more than enough. Similarly, employees need to understand that their devotion must be to a single job at a time.

That’s the sweetest and easiest path there is to dim the moonlight. – FuelEd by Fountane

Sushrut is the key content strategist and writer for FuelEd Community. He is a content writer and content strategist with experience in domains like technology, freelancing, and side hustles.

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