Green Light To Moonlight

Moonlight is proof that there will always be light in the twilight. Whoever said it may have never meant it the way it is used in the neoteric sense in contemporary times! 

As we use it today, Moonlighting means having secondary employment to augment and supplement your primary income. It is like working a regular full-time job and getting paid for the work – which is your primary source of income and then having another work arrangement that pays you a little bit extra. It could be a freelancing arrangement, another full-time obligation, a contractual agreement, a hobby that pays you, or just some seasonal assignments you may undertake for some extra money. Extra money never hurt anyone, and for something you can do with your knowledge and experience and get paid for it, well… why not! But, as said, it’s not that simple.

Why the Name?

In the everyday context, you would be working a day job, say 9 am to 5 pm. And any employment you would take up additionally, post your usual working hours, will have to be done post sunset, i.e., under the moonlight; hence the name. It means ‘secret’ employment due to the notion that it is carried out while everyone else sleeps…but more commonly, it is used in the context of having a second job.

Especially in the last couple of years, when the pandemic struck, everything went haywire and normal life came to a screeching halt. For some, it was the end of the road, while for a few others, it was a complete re-router. What affected people most commonly was a hit in their incomes!!!

That gave rise to the Moon or, instead, ‘Moonlighting.’ But, just as moonlight lightens up a night, a moonlighting job lightens up dark clouds on your finances!

Moonlighting is not new; it has been around for ages. It has just been circumstantially put back in the limelight in the last couple of years. Almost every professional has had some side hustle running for them, especially when working on contractual terms. As it is usually called, a side business or a side gig has always been a favourite means of supplementing income…

An actor may always have some money-churning endorsements paying him an extra wage. Likewise, a doctor can earn additional fees through a home or online consultations, and a teacher may always be able to make an extra buck with personal coaching to students…but if a normal office-goer does this with his skill…….Oh Yes…it can be problematic for them. Why is it an Eye-Sore, and why are many worrying about it?

First, most feel it is ‘Cheating.’ They consider it an injustice to the employment terms offered to the employees for full-time work. Most believe there may be less attention to work, devotion, and focus when a second job is undertaken while employed under different organisation. Secondary employment possibly can put an organization at a data leak or breach risk. At the same time, some argue that the employee’s time during the work belongs to the company and anything outside of it is deception and disloyalty. Is it so?

Let me make some refreshing arguments…

Argument No. 1: 

To start with the basics, a company employs you after 18 for a skill they feel you possess that may help the company achieve its objective. This company was nowhere in the picture while you attained adulthood and acquired that skill set you can use. It is important to note that they did not hire just anyone and then teach them the skill. They hired you for your 'existing' talent. But as soon as they 'hire' you, You become their property! This is somehow unjust. The employee worked hard to educate himself, earn a degree, acquire a skill worth some earnings, and now his time, life, ideas, and experience all belong to a company that just happened some time ago; how does that work?
Argument No. 2: 

When the pandemic struck, everyone was affected in one manner or another. There were job losses; people had pay cuts ranging from 20-80%. Some just retrenched employees, citing zero business. Some fantastic companies did look after their employees well – hat's off to them for this, but there were many more which didn't or couldn't…What happened to company ethics and promises? Suddenly institutions were 'practical' and did 'what they had to run their businesses. FAIR… but then the employee is somehow a 'Cheat' when they get practical about earning an extra buck to support their income! 
Argument No. 3:  

Organizations have clauses stating that the ideas that an employee gets and those implemented while in employment are the company's property, and the employee shall not replicate or call them his own – FAIR!! But then, once the employee had clocked his time out, you cannot claim to own any part of his life. This is only asking to be fair on both sides. Whatever an employee does outside work is none of the company's business!
Argument No. 4: 

Companies feel okay with laying off employees to keep up with rising costs, prices, inflation, etc. They must do what they have to to keep afloat … so why not the employee? If the employee, too, is thinking about ways to stay afloat and keep their head above rising costs and inflation, why is it wrong?
Argument No. 5: 

Employment is a contract where the employer and the candidate come together and agree on specific terms for a mutually-beneficial working arrangement. The employee is paid for the work he does. Suppose somehow the employee's situation changes…. say. In that case, e.g., an earning family member expires, and suddenly the number of dependants on their salary increases, the employer will not double his wages to cover the additional dependants, right? They only continue to pay according to the terms agreed upon earlier, so if he joins/starts a second employment, it should, too, not ruffle any feathers.

My take is as long as the secondary employment does not hinder the primary employment’s discharge terms, it should not be a bone of contention for any organisations. Thats me.

Moonlighting Laws around the Biggest Economies

US: Moonlighting is legally permissible and quite common in the States. Self-employment, proxy employment, side hustles, dual employment, etc., are all common and rampant. 

UK: Similar to the US, no bar on holding secondary or third employments and side gigs for as long as they do not interfere with your primary duties.

Germany: Government categorically allows secondary employment for as long as it does not affect your primary employment obligations. However, taxation may be a little harsher on the secondary income. Furthermore, the second job must be outside the main job’s working hours.

China: Teachers and scientific researchers are allowed to moonlight openly – as they assumedly get paid low wages. Also, to spread knowledge and consultation are entitled. 

India: No separate laws prohibiting moonlighting. However, Section 27 of the Indian Contract Act 1872 does prohibit competing with the employer by starting a similar business or competitor’s offer. Usually, a prohibitive clause in the employment contract disallows dual employment. Most institutions in India forbid the practice of moonlighting and rigidly cap employees from taking a second job.

Most other countries, there are no particular laws prohibiting moonlighting, but generally not acceptable.

The Opinion

Changes in every sphere of our personal and professional lives and how we work and expect work are also undergoing fundamental changes. This should not just be accepted but also anticipated in advance. A secondary source of income has become a necessary evil in the modern world. It is no longer safe to bet your life on just one source of income. It’s similar to putting all your eggs in different baskets. It acts as a safety cushion or an airbag functionality in case of a ‘job-loss’ misfortune.

Just as you would ‘Diversify’ your investment portfolio, Moonlighting is just an attempt to diversify your INCOME portfolio! That shouldn’t be wrong, what do you think? Is it time yet! Time to show green light to moonlight!!! 

Follow Veena Gupta

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