India Inc is not in the dark about moonlighting employees.
According to a forensic accountant, companies can easily turn to experts and deploy digital tools that can be used to check if an employee is doing a second job or not — reaffirming fears of many who are wary of the practice in the context of the recent sacking of moonlighters by IT major Wipro.
Arpinder Singh, global markets and India leader, forensic and integrity services, EY, said that EY had been involved with several companies to gauge moonlighting.
“We can use technology to digitally examine employees, since we have access to a number of public databases such as tax registration numbers or other details through government facilities like DigiLocker (government-back digital document wallet).
"This can validate a name from government records and identify cases where there is a potential second income.
"The cases that we were able to spot were clearly moonlighting to make money on the side, and they were also looking at setting up their own freelance advisory services at times,” added Singh.
Singh said that industries that offer room for moonlighting must proactively take such steps.
“You can use the background verification system for checking moonlighting, too.
"Instead of being surprised by such actions of employees or acting on whistle-blower complaints, proactive checks can save time,” he added.
What surprised Singh and his team was that most employees believe that what they do outside of their working hours is not their employer’s concern.
“Most of the companies have also started educating and training their employees what they can and cannot do according to their code of business conduct,” he said.
Meanwhile, industry body Nasscom also weighed in for the first time on moonlighting and urged companies to re-imagine their engagement models.
Nasscom also made it clear that employees wanting to work for others need to say so to their employers upfront.
“We have to re-imagine our employee engagement model for this new hybrid model.
"One of the things we have to recalibrate is how to build flexibility and ensure that trust becomes the bedrock of any engagement model between the employer and the employee.
"That’s where the current problems are arising from,” said Debjani Ghosh, president, Nasscom.
She added that as companies build flexibility they will also have to consider questions like where employees are going to work from.
While many are still thinking this through and each company will have its own method, they also have to address the question of how to take steps that help build a culture of flexibility and trust.
“No one size fits everyone. Employees want choice.
"We need to embrace two models.
"One is employees working full-time and the other is a gig model.
"Doing multiple jobs is not the problem, but how you get into it is.
"Are you being transparent about it to your employer? Have you told them you want to be a gig worker?
"Problems happen when you are not having trust,” she said.
After Wipro cracked the whip and terminated the services of 300 moonlighters who were working for competition, several engineers are now being circumspect.
“After Wipro took such a harsh step, many are now getting cautious and wondering what Infosys or others will do,” said an engineer working with a multinational technology firm.
He, however, echoed the same thought that Singh shared: “If my productivity is 100 per cent then my company should not worry about what I do in my free time.”
Moonlighting isn’t a new concept.
However, with the Covid-19 pandemic compelling people to work from home, many have been spending long hours moonlighting in addition to performing their regular job.
Shiv Agrawal, MD, ABC Consultants, a recruitment firm, said that companies have always made it clear when they hire candidates that the latter are working for them.
There have been cases where employees work on other projects, but only after discussing those with the employer firm, he added.
“You also have to understand that this is a candidate market. Let the market go down a bit, then this trend will also decline.”