Infosys warns staff against moonlighting, saying it may result in firing.

Infosys Warns Employees Against Moonlighting
Infosys Warns Employees Against Moonlighting

Indian Market
by 5paisa Research Team Last Updated: 2022-09-14T20:02:53+05:30

If you have been reading up about the latest trends in the IT industry, it is unlikely that you would have missed out the latest IT sector fad called “Moonlighting”. Now this moonlighting is not a very complex subject. The idea is to treat the employees of the company as its consultants and also allow them to work short gigs at other companies. In the old days, government officials would leverage their connections to build income stream in the name of their family members. Now the IT employees want these gigs legitimized.

Obviously, since moonlighting refers to employees taking up side gigs to work on more than one job at a time, not all employers are happy. There are concerns over the focus of the employee, their utilization of time, their commitment to the job and above all there are questions about confidentiality when the employee in question has access to confidential details pertaining to a client or project. Infosys Ltd has become the first IT company to openly come out and warn employees against such moonlighting practices at Infosys.

Infosys has recently circulated a mail to its employees, making it crystal clear that dual employment or “moonlighting” is not permitted. In fact, Infosys has also warned that moonlight amounts to violation of the employment contract and could trigger disciplinary action by the company, as may be deemed appropriate. Such action could even amount to termination of the person from the company since it was a flagrant violation of the employee code of conduct, which clearly prohibits such two-timing or dual employment.

Infosys has also highlighted relevant sections of the Employee Handbook and Code of Conduct, which clearly prohibits the employees of Infosys from taking up any second job, either temporary or permanent, while on the rolls of Infosys. Such aspects have also been made part of the offer letter made and since the employee endorses the offer letter before joining the company, they are bound by the employee code and the regulations. Infosys specifically underlined that any disciplinary action could even culmination in termination.

Infosys made it clear that employees cannot have the cake and eat it too. The company has gone a step further and has urged its managers and its senior personnel to suitably sensitize their respective teams about dual employment and the consequences of the employees undertaking any moonlighting assignment. According to Infosys, irrespective of the term used to describe such activities, it essentially amounts to accepting dual employment in contravention of the employee code of conduct applicable at Infosys.

The problem gets more convoluted when employees are working remotely. For instance, office lines can be made recorded lines for business purpose. However, the same cannot be done to home lines. In such cases, the company in question has little control over the employee who may not be giving his 100% to the company. One option that many unions had suggested was to officially allow employees to indulge in moonlighting. With Infosys coming down heavily on moonlighting, other IT companies are likely to follow suit.

There are several implications as now moonlighting is being seen as a reality in the IT industry. Going ahead, IT employers are likely to consider extra safeguards to protect proprietary information and operating models. This is more so in mission critical projects and where employees work remotely. There is also the possibility that IT companies could also turn tougher on exclusivity clauses in employment contracts. Rishad Premji of Wipro had actually flagged the moonlighting issue, equating it with cheating your employer.

The Pune based union of IT employees (NITES) has strongly condemned the email sent by Infosys to employees. NITES has argued that moonlighting was not feasible due to Aadhar and PAN linked universal account number (UAN). However, that sounds more like a naïve argument intended to skirt the issue. Most IT employees have been found informally moonlighting for other companies for financial gains. If it was as impossible as NITES says, then the big IT companies like Infosys an Wipro would not be losing sleep over it.

NITES has again argued that what the employees do outside working hours is their prerogative. That again sounds like a very inane argument. When they have a singular employment contract, any moonlighting is breach of that contract. There are no two opinions about that. Like in ancient Sparta, you are a criminal when you get caught, but that does not stop the companies from warning its employees. As they say, you cannot have the cake and eat it too. That is exactly what the IT employees have been trying to do.

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