Moonlight serenade

Although moonlighting is considered a dismissible offence according to many employers, this article questions if certain forms of moonlighting should be allowed

For many employers, discovering that an employee has earned extra income from some form of 'moonlighting' is a dismissible offence. The rationale is that the professional skills and responsiveness of staff belong to employers 24/7, especially with the advent of smart phones.

Labour legislation is pretty supportive of the employer's right to demand undivided loyalties from full-time employees, especially if this is enshrined in clear and unambiguous company policy. The purpose of this discussion is not to interpret the law, but to explore whether we SHOULD consider allowing moonlighting of some sorts.

Perhaps our current aversion to moonlighting points to a culture of mistrust, a restricted definition of loyalty and a narrow view of work-life balance. Let's examine why we generally impose a ban on moonlighting. It is primarily based on employer concerns regarding:

  • Conflict of Interests, in that the employees might have their attention diverted towards the interests of another employer or, worse, a competitor. Reasonable enough.
  • Diversion of effort/energies away from that of the employer, whereby work time or resources might be used for other jobs, which would be a mental distraction, let alone the employee not working a full pace for their employer if they are not getting adequate rest. Also a legitimate concern.

The question then exists as to whether an environment can be created whereby the person can pursue some acceptable forms of alternate work (remunerated or not) within certain bounds, which can work for both parties.

Some work environments, such as universities, tolerate and even facilitate external work. Most academics get to consult for up to 20% of their time to the private sector, which keeps them current with the real world, and retains their skills in the poorer-paid educational sector. It is generally disclosed (sometime with shared revenues) and the benefits for both parties are harnessed. Many freelance jobs are designed to allow multiple income sources for consultants, journalists, programmers, etc. and this is frequently the staple form of employment in the huge outsourcing industry both here and worldwide.

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