Moonlighting: A rising (and dangerous) trend

In most parliamentary democracies, elected officials are paid fixed salaries whether they work hard or not. What is not always recognised is that in countries such as Germany, France and the UK, members of parliament can work in the private sector in addition to their political mandate.

In the UK, 20 MPs spend more than 1,000 hours on other employment, according to the Guardian. They stated that more than £7m was made from outside work over the last session of parliament, 17 of which made an income of more than £100,000 during 2012-13.

Conservative MP Stephen Phillips, who declared more than £74,000 in outside income, said that “what matters is whether or not I do my job as an MP and how well I do it. People can check that from my attendance and other figures, which I believe demonstrate that I am one of the hardest workers at Westminster. The fact that I don’t have a job as minister and continue to work as a lawyer, mostly when parliament is not sitting and I am not engaged on constituency duties, enables me to keep a foot in the real world.”

But it’s not just MPs. Professionals in all kinds of industries engage in multiple jobholding, or “moonlighting”. A PeoplePerHour poll of 450,000 workers revealed that almost three in five were taking up extra work to pay their heating bills or cover a weekly food shop. Others may work on starting their own business when they get home from their day job.

For a business, moonlighting can be a good thing. Employees can learn new skills, extend their network and possibly break into a new industry. But the risks of moonlighting arguably outrank these benefits. A loss of productivity on the main job, physical and mental health problems are a typical consequence of juggling two sources of income.

Employees going to second jobs after hours usually sets the alarm bells ringing on management level. What if the moonlighter loses productivity and motivation, shows up tired, arrives late and leaves early on a routine basis? Sloppy work and errors due to lack of focus could cause major implications for the company. In this sense, moonlighting should be regulated and controlled as your business and employees could end up suffering for it.

Banning outside employment altogether, however, will only lead to poor employee relations, so concentrate on reducing its impact on productivity, safety and misuse of company property. By allowing employees to moonlight, you could improve retention. If you don’t already have one, now is the time to draft a moonlighting policy.

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