Moonlighting: More than meets the eye for second jobbers

Almost one-third of the working population in the UK has a second job. Zoe Grainge finds out the benefits to both the employee and the employer.

Out of the UK’s total workforce of 29 million people, a staggering 11 million have another job in addition to their main role – they moonlight.

According to research released last week by personal finance website Fool.co.uk, 47% of respondents do it for extra money, while 19% moonlight “to broaden their horizons”.

Moonlighting can be lucrative for those in it for the money. Fool.co.uk claims it can boost total income by 6%, but for others it presents ethical dilemmas at work, and shows that a great many people are not being fulfilled by their principal jobs.

“Some people feel pigeon-holed at work,” says David Kuo, head of personal finance at Fool.co.uk. “They think their jobs don’t require many of their actual skills.”

Kuo says the survey found that some people were unhappy in their jobs, and that their training or education background did not match the job they were doing. In such a situation, many workers were driven “underground” to moonlight, and their main employer was not aware of the situation. According to Fool’s research, seven out of 10 respondents said they had not told their main employer about their moonlighting.

Kuo advises honesty in such a dilemma. “Morally, you should tell your employer if you have another job,” he says. “If there is no conflict of interest, it should not be a problem. You should also make your HR department aware that you have skills that are not being used, and perhaps they can be incorporated into your job in some way.”

Kuo says HR managers should carry out regular audits of employees to ask about skills. He blames a culture of specialisation for people moonlighting to seek fulfilment.

“Every job in the workplace is becoming more specialised,” he said. “HR departments should find out everything their employees can do, even if it’s just being able to play guitar.”

Legally, employers cannot order their workers not to have a second job as it is classified as restraint of trade. However, Kuo advises checking contracts carefully for working hours specifications.

Catherine Anderson is a London-based accountant working for a computer games company. In her spare time – evenings, weekends and sometimes lunch hours – she moonlights as a mystery shopper, reviewing bars and restaurants.

“I do it because it’s interesting, it gets me out of the house, and it pays for nights out,” she says. “I feel like I’m providing a service as well, as I used to work in retail.”

Anderson has been mystery shopping for about three years, and was upfront with her employer when she joined the company last year. “I’m not unfulfilled during office hours,” she adds. “My employer was fine.”

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, says moonlighting should only concern HR managers if it is a problem.

“There is an implied requirement of ‘faithful service’ in employment contracts,” he says. “This means that if an employee turns up for work tired, or if they leave early, or if they aren’t producing the results expected of them, an HR manager could take them to task. If problems aren’t visible, then it’s not an issue.”

Emmott also questions Fool’s survey. “We are supposed to have a long-hours culture in the UK. It seems possible that the people working two or three jobs work shorter hours than most people.”

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