After big IT services companies like TCS, Wipro and HCL Tech came forward with a clear stand against ‘moonlighting’, global IT giant IBM's India unit has also discouraged the trend, saying it's a breach of employment obligations. In an internal mail to the IBM employees, IBM India’s managing director (MD) Sandip Patel says the moonlighting concept can cause a lot of "confusion" if not clarified at a granular level.

For the unversed, "moonlighting" is commonly referred to having a second job in addition to one's regular and full-time employment. So far, most big IT companies, including Wipro and TCS, have said they don’t support gig work or dual employment by their employees. Wipro even fired 300 employees for moonlighting recently.

Now Patel's letter against the trend has further consolidated the support against the concept, which gained momentum in India since the start of the Covid pandemic. "IBM's employment contracts require that employees refrain from engaging in any other employment or business in any role or capacity and not compete with IBM."

Providing assistance to IBM's competitor in any capacity is a clear conflict of interest, he says. "IBM's Business Conduct Guidelines also make it clear that while an IBMer's time outside of work is their own, it also requires them to avoid engaging in activities that create a conflict of interest with IBM's business."

The IBM MD & CEO says the company has a clear stance that it encourages every IBMer to bring their whole selves to work. "Your passion -- be it for art, dance, or music is celebrated here, and in that spirit, we'd love to see you pursue your interests."

He stated that if an employee advances a personal interest, whether directly or indirectly, at the expense of IBM's interests, it is treated as a "serious conflict of interest and a violation of trust".

He said a second job could be full-time, part-time, or contractual in nature but, at its core, is a failure to comply with employment obligations and a potential conflict of interest with IBM's interests. "IBM's policy is also fundamentally important to the trust our clients place in IBM when they entrust us with the transformation, access, and management of critical commercial assets, including their data and systems."

As per Patel, if any IBM employee still wants to engage in any activities outside of IBM, including work with any non-profit or philanthropic activity, they must get the necessary approval for a third-party activity.

"IBMers and IBM's greatest strength, built on our core value, is -- "Trust and personal responsibility in all relations"."

Other companies have also spoken against moonlighting. TCS this month said this practice is against the IT major's ‘core values and culture.’ Wipro chairman Rishad Premji has on many occasions said moonlighting is in violation of the ‘act of integrity.’ HCL Tech said that while it does not support dual employment, the issue of moonlighting is not a big one in the Noida-based company.

Infosys, on the other hand, is the first major company that has come out with clear guidelines for those looking for work outside their current jobs. In an internal communication last week, Infosys 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. Infosys' decision to allow its employees to take up gig work, with certain riders, may well be the start of a new trend in the IT service industry.

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."

Commenting on the latest development, Harpreet Singh Saluja, president, tech employees’ body NITES (Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate) said the time has come to remind IT organisations that employees are neither slaves nor bonded labours. "This shows the capitalist mindset of the company (IBM), which is trying to capture and restrict the thought process of employees. This is clearly violations of Human Rights & Personal Liberty."

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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