What is Moonlighting: An ethical dilemma and a corporate conundrum

In the corporate lexicon one word that would be in the very top of the list this year would be ‘Moonlighting’.  It might sound similar to Michael Jackson’s famous glide backward as he introduced the moonwalk in 1983 to the world. But it is not!


So, what is Moonlighting?

And why it is mired in controversy and a bone of contention between employers and enterprising employees.


Moonlighting is an innocuous sounding work that came in greater focus as the pandemic induced remote work culture shifted employees into the confines of their home.
Moonlighting indicates a situation in which an employee works more than one job – typically one full time and one part time.

As most “normal” jobs occur during the day, the other job would usually occur at night, thus the reference to “Moon”. Although it is more prevalent in the Low-income workers who would typically do such work for additional income; remote working and projects across time zones now allow high-income techies to do the same.  Almost all organizations prohibit Moonlighting and impose strict measures against employees who take part in outside gigs. However, some firms allow employees to work a second job, especially if there is no conflict of interest and it does not contravene existing contractual obligations.

Several leading IT companies have taken a tough stance against moonlighting, including Infosys, Wipro, and IBM. Their employees cannot work a second job while employed by them with express approval of the employers.

Moonlighting raises questions on

  • Ethics
  • Propriety
  • Conflict Of Interest
  • Protection Of Intellectual Property
  • Contractual Obligation on exclusive employment
  • Non-compete restrictions

While moonlighting has been prevalent for a long time, the pandemic has led to an increase in cases due to the prevalence of working from home. The reason for this is that it has become easier for employees to work a second job or start a business without their primary employer’s knowledge. Technology enhancements, Remote working and project collaboration across time zones have now made this possible for higher-paid techies as well to look for a second gig or job.

In addition to their full-time jobs, most millennials have a side hustle to provide financial security. Additionally, they are commonly used to repay student loans or to find an outlet for their creative pursuits that are typically not fulfilled by their primary job. For employees with low incomes, a second job can also be very helpful in meeting their daily needs if the income from their primary job is low.

As per industry reports, the reasons moonlighting employees give for working on multiple jobs are:

  • to have more disposable income
  • to pay off debt
  • to add to their savings/investment
  • to gain additional work experience
  • to pursue their passion
  • to combat boredom
  • to curb job dissatisfaction as employees are unhappy with the current job profile, career opportunities etc.
  • Pick up second employment to upskill and pursue an aspirational job profile that
  • Utilize free time to pursue other creative or professional pursuits.

Risks of Moonlighting

There are risks associated with Moonlighting unless those are mitigated or explicitly called out by the employer or the employee.

  • Data privacy and confidential information leakage
  • Conflict of interest or divided loyalty
  • Work-life imbalance
  • Usage of employers’ property for other personal work
  • Loss of productivity
  • Diminished job performance

Employers should consider

  • Identifying opportunities to re-skill and Up-Skill employees so that they are not on bench
  • Salary rationalization
  • Provide Reward and Recognition opportunities and career growth
  • Create anti-poaching agreement
  • Proactive communication
  • Proper monitoring of employees’ work output and allocation
  • Share clear guidelines and processes for employees to follow when they pursue part time gigs