In what appears to be the start of a new trend in the IT service industry, India's second biggest tech company Infosys Ltd has allowed its employees to take up outside 'gig' work, though with several riders. Laying out a series of guidelines for those looking for work outside their current job, Infosys, in an internal communication to its employees, said: "Any employee, who wishes to take up gig work, may do so with the prior consent of their manager or BP (business partner)-HR in their personal time, for establishments that do not compete with Infosys or Infosys's clients."

The company said it counts on its employees to ensure their work outside the company does not affect their ability to work with Infosys. "In addition, as per Infosys employment contract, employees may not work in areas where there is an actual or potential conflict of interest or by accepting dual employment."

The latest internal communication is an extension of Infosys CEO Salil Parekh's recent remarks made during the company's earnings call. The Infosys CEO on October 13 had said that Infosys will support certain gig projects. "Now for gig opportunities in the external environment, we support the aspirations of our employees to learn beyond their work. We will support them to work on certain gig projects, after the prior approval of their managers. We are also developing more comprehensive policies while ensuring contractual and confidentiality commitments are fully respected. However, to be fully clear, we don't support dual employment."

Experts say the latest move could help the company contain the high attrition rate. Infosys' attrition rate, like its peers, remains high at 27.1% as of September 30, 2022.

In the post-pandemic world where discourses around allowing flexibility at work and implementing employee-friendly policies have come to the fore, moonlighting – a practice wherein a company employee engages in dual employment usually covertly– is a sort of a knotty area that industry leaders are currently treading. So far, most big IT companies, including Wipro and TCS, have expressed a clear stance against gig work or dual employment. Wipro even fired 300 employees for moonlighting, a practice that chairman Rishad Premji believed is in violation of the ‘act of integrity.’ The company said the sacked staff were caught working for one of the IT firm’s competitors.

However, some companies like Infosys are taking a step forward changing the rules of the game. Infosys has said anyone opting for gigs will have to ensure they align with its policy and do not affect their work at Infosys.

Commenting on the development, Harpreet Singh Saluja, president, tech employees’ body NITES (Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate) said employees should not be mandated to seek a company’s permission before taking up outside gig work. "This is a clear violation of human rights and personal liberty. The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Indian Constitution. There is no legal limit on the number of salaried jobs an employee can hold. In India, sometimes the company’s directors hold multiple jobs. Keeping the inflation in view, if an employee wants to support his family financially by taking up a side hustle (s)he shouldn't be treated as a criminal."

During his Q2 earnings briefing, Parekh had even said that to encourage its employees to take up gigs outside their core job at Infosys, the company is running a platform called 'Accelerate'. He said over the last two years, Infosys has set up a platform called 'Accelerate' for those looking at different projects outside of their main work. As per the Infosys CEO, around 4,000 apply on this platform every year and about 600 have been selected for different gigs.

Infosys stock is up 0.29% currently at Rs 1,505.30 against the previous session close of 1,500.90 on the NSE.

While legacy IT firms have so far been quite transparent about their strict reservations about moonlighting, some new-age startups seem more welcoming to the idea. Food delivery major Swiggy, for instance, has been one of the first tech firms to support moonlighting by instituting a policy around it. Swiggy has mandated its employees to seek the company’s approval before pursuing projects that are picked up for economic consideration and/or fall under the first category, internally described as ‘A.’ Edtech unicorn Emeritus is also open to allowing its employees to take up side jobs as long as the company is kept in the loop.

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