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Swiggy’s moonlighting policy is not a bright idea

Moonlighting has been associated with dual employment, a practice that can easily lead to job termination. But earlier this month, food delivery platform-Swiggy, stunned the HR community by seeking to legitimize the practice by allowing its workforce to work elsewhere while continuing to hold their jobs in the Softbank-backed company.

“Swiggy employees can take up external projects for pro-bono or economic consideration based on internal approvals. This could encompass activity outside of office hours or on weekends that does not impact their productivity on the full-time job or have a conflict of interest with Swiggy’s business in any way,” said the company in a public release.

On the face of it, the move looks progressive: employees do not have to work on the sly with another firm. Ideally, employment benefits should include healthcare benefits and inflation-indexed pay. But not many companies can afford such HR policies, and most are cutting costs ruthlessly to stay afloat. When employees face the brunt of healthcare expenses in a pandemic, their family members lose jobs and the struggles are compounded by rising costs of living, the least the empathetic employers can do then is to let their workforce explore alternative sources of income.

But is it about to revolutionize the jobs market?

In many western countries, holding more than one job is common (unless the company prohibits). Swiggy’s new policy could have been path-breaking if it was likely to usher in a new corporate culture in which employees stood a real chance of holding more than one job which can be a combination of permanent, temporary or gig.

However, it is unlikely to be followed up by other organisations or revolutionize workplace policies. Swiggy is not unfortunately about to make moonlighting an accepted practice. Mint discussed with various senior HR executives and they chalked out a list of reasons for this. Here’s what they say:

Is the moonlighting policy applicable to only employees on payrolls or will it be allowed for third-party employees like the delivery workforce?

Most of the delivery workforce is not on the payroll. The policy is available to all full-time employees of Bundl Technologies, including subsidiaries, affiliates, associate, and group companies. Delivery executives who are working in the gig economy have the choice to take up projects and work at multiple places as per their choice even now.

Will the conflict-of-interest clause play a larger role in thwarting all attempts at another job?

For an employee to earn any income from a task different from his core skill sets is difficult. If he is a sales executive, there are higher chances of him getting employed by a rival firm or a similar role in a different sector than earn as a music teacher. He may be a good musician but will always be pitted against those who have taken music up as a profession.

In its release, like a cautionary disclaimer, the company added that the final nod will be given after comparing the two jobs and their similarities. “Projects that pose a higher risk of conflict of interest or interference with the employees’ duties to Swiggy are subject to an approval process,” Swiggy added.

Who will track the productivity of the employee knowing he is holding more than one job?

Assuming the employee gets the approval from his line manager, then any dip in his productivity or absenteeism gets linked to the side hustle. This is a tough ask from line managers who are trying to meet deadlines, backfill exits and get new business which requires additional working hours including weekends.

Now, when work from office is becoming the norm again for many profiles, there will be additional pressure on the bosses to keep a hawk’s eye on the teams. In the quest for some additional income, the employee will have to walk a tightrope which can lead to frayed nerves all across.

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Can moonlighting be replicated across the hierarchy?

The IT, ITes and e-commerce sector have raised red flags over the increasing cases of moonlighting, specially among the junior and middle management. For a policy to become a success, it needs to get easily adopted across a company’s hierarchy and the HR fraternity is unsure if it will meet success beyond the lower order of the company. Those on the third-party payrolls may not be able to take more than the relegated jobs unless the vendor accepts.

Impact on the common goal

What bind a company and its employees together are a common goal and a sense of ownership. Today, India Inc is struggling to rebuild equations with its employees after two years of work from home and virtual calls. Clocking out to meet the KRAs of another job (even for few hours) may lead to a more robotic work culture devoid of the pauses enjoyed with colleagues.

Therefore moonlighting, a term which started when people picked up jobs at night after their daytime office, may struggle to see the dawn.

Elsewhere in Mint

Long Story reveals how expensive and rare orchids are smuggled out of India. In Opinion, Nitin Pai draws nation-building lessons from a Bollywood song. Bibek Debroy writes on India’s Amrit Kaal modernity. ED has made India’s crypto winter colder, argues Andy Mukherjee.

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