Should You Allow Your Employees to Moonlight?

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ClockWith the U.S. leading the way in low-wage work and the lowest wages for low-wage work, the conditions are absolutely right for a boom in moonlighting as more and more workers take second jobs in order to supplement the low pay of their primary jobs. Studies suggest that about 5 percent of the U.S. workforce hold more than one job, so many employers should find themselves facing the question of whether or not they should allow their employees to moonlight.

However, it’s not right to single the U.S.: many other major economies, such as the U.K., Canada, and Germany, have wage levels that fall well below the averages established by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Moonlighting, then, is a global issue.

However, before we discuss whether or not moonlighting is a good idea (from an employer’s standpoint), it’s worth examining the legal power employers may have to actually prevent employees from working second jobs.

Laws vary by country, but overall, employers generally have the right to prevent or limit moonlighting when it interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their existing role effectively — which is arguably a breach of contract. It’s usually best to forewarn employees of any restrictions placed on moonlighting by including a moonlighting policy in the employee handbook that sets out what is permissible.

Employers have to be careful that they don’t make their policies too restrictive, as they may find themselves stomping on workers’ personal liberties. Excessively restrictive polices are generally unenforceable, so employers should solicit legal advice when putting together their moonlighting policies.

Now, even if an employer canblock moonlighting, should it? Employees are not moonlighting to spite their employers: a D.O.L. study shows that 30.9 percent of moonlighting workers do so to “meet regular expenses”: 14.5 percent do it because they enjoy their second jobs; 10.9 percent do it to pay off debts; 8.7 percent do it to save for the future; etc., etc.

Needlessly going to war with employees on the issue of moonlighting is sure to quickly turn employers into bad guys. As long as employers make it clear to employees that approval of a second job is conditional on their continuing good performance on the first job, there seems to be no good reason to ban moonlighting among employees. Also, it’s simply not in the moonlighter’s interest to jeopardize their first job and main source of income, so the odds are stacked in the employer’s favor.

Moonlighting does not just benefit the employee; in many respects, it benefits the employer, too. People who work second jobs are often highly motivated, and highly motivated people are great to have on staff. Why crush employees’ enthusiasms and passions by warring with such highly motivated types?

Also, people who take second jobs often gain additional skills, which can make them more efficient in their first jobs. People with multiple jobs can also build larger networks, which gives them more opportunities for to refer your business to new clients and/or new talent.

Of course, if an employer believes that an employee’s second job will jeopardize — or is already jeopardizing — performance in their first job, then it’s the employer’s duty to address the issue. This could involve asking the employee to stop moonlighting or asking them to reduce their hours at the second job. Alternatively, employers could take the radical option of agreeing to a raise, promotion, and/or increased hours, in exchange for an employee agreeing to reduce time — or stop working altogether — at their second job.

Given the overwhelming benefits that moonlighting can provide to both employees and employers, it makes sense for employers to have open and accepting attitudes toward employees taking up second jobs. Moonlighting does come with some risk, but with clear communication of expectations, this risk should be manageable.

By Kazim Ladimeji