Wipro fires 300 employees found guilty of moonlighting
If you are working in the IT industry and though that you can easily make extra income by moonlighting, think again. The industry is coming down heavily on this practice. But first, what is this moonlighting all about? It refers to employees doing short term projects and gigs at other companies even when they are employed on the rolls of one company. This has become extremely controversial with IT industry complaining that this is leading to divided loyalties as well as creating a major risk factor for the confidentiality involved in projects.
The impact is starting to show. Just about 10 days back, Infosys wrote a detailed mail to its employees referring to moonlighting as double-timing the employer. Infosys was clear that moonlighting by any name would invite strict disciplinary action, including termination. Now another IT bigwig, Wipro, has announced that Wipro had terminated 300 employees for moonlighting with competitors. Obviously, the IT industry is not taking it lying down and there is also sharing of data by managements to help people identify such candidates.
Rishad Premji, the chairman of Wipro, has been emphatic that moonlighting was a violation of integrity and ethics and had no place in an employment contract. Obviously, the firing of 300 employees was meant to have deterrent value so that other employees are not tempted to try it out. Infosys and Wipro have been quite vocal about moonlighting being in contravention of the employee code of conduct and, therefore, unacceptable. Let us quickly look at how this practice of moonlighting gathered momentum in recent times.
Moonlighting is not just a domestic problem but companies the world over are facing this problem. Moonlighting is an outcome of the work-for-home (WFH) practice which became inevitable during the pandemic. During this period, companies had limited control over the activities of their employees and that is when moonlighting took off in a big way. However, with offices starting function normally, the IT industry wants to go all out and nip this practice in the bud. Interestingly, some IT companies actually favour moonlighting.
One of the supporters of this moonlighting has been CP Gurnani of Tech Mahindra. Gurnani has gone to the extent of saying that IT companies need to change with the times and as work gets more dispersed and decentralized, IT companies must adapt. Instead of trying to restrict moonlighting, they must allow it with certain checks and balances. Others like Swiggy, actually encourage their employees to take up additional gigs in their spare time. For now, large part of the organized IT industry still remains wary of moonlighting practice.
Rishad Premji wants more transparency in this process rather than employees working for competitors secretively. According to Rishad, employees were welcome to have candid and open conversations around playing in a band or working on a project over the weekend. The company was open to that idea, provided it did not benefit any competitor. For example, Wipro would not have a problem if employees wanted to be part of a rock band as long as it did not interfere with their routine work. However, employers expect more transparency.
Employees contend that what they do outside office hours is none of the business of the employer and even the unions are of the same view. With the rising lay-offs in various sectors, most employees are already working on multiple jobs officially. Obviously, the employees are trying to have the cake and eat it too. If they want to work with multiple projects, they must ideally branch out on their own, take the risk and then nothing would really stop them. However, for most employees that is too much of a risk.
There are no easy answers but while the employers are trying to protect their intellectual property, the employees are trying to hedge their risks. There may be no immediate solution in sight. Employees have to decide whether they want to run with the hares or hunt with the hounds. Two timing is not impressing the employers and they have a valid reason.
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