Moonlighting now a cancer in workplaces
ONE of the biggest challenges at workplaces today is the large number of employees who engage in moonlighting as they supplement wages that can no longer meet their basic needs.
Generally, moonlighting involves extra money a worker earns through activities that are performed after working hours. There have been many disputes over moonlighting with workers arguing that they sold their wares during lunch time or after hours and the employer arguing that such money-making activities are not acceptable as long as the employee remains an employee of the employer. With the bad state of our economy, workers have resorted to moonlighting even during working hours.
As a general rule, an employee is free to engage in private business after hours. The employer’s interest is confined to the contractual time, that is working hours agreed upon by parties when workers contracted.
The employee’s freedom to moonlight is, however, regulated by the employee’s implied duty to serve the employer in good faith. The worker has to ensure that all after work activities do not interfere with this duty otherwise the employee will be disciplined.
The duty of good faith has been covered in many legal cases and courts have ruled that is goes to the root of the relationship, thus it could lead to dismissal. As part of good faith, the employee cannot work in a manner that compromises the employer’s interest. For example, a welder cannot divert customers from the employer to his private after-hours welding business. The employee should not put himself in a position that is conflicted with those of the employer such as making secret profits at the expense of the employer or abusing the workplace tools, equipment and others for private personal gain.
There are also moonlighting cases where workers engage in private business during working hours such as selling sandwiches for tea to other employees who visit their workstations to transact. While this is common in many organisations and some employees have been doing it for many years and in some cases the chief executive could also be a customer, the bottom line is that it is a form of moonlighting which takes away people from their work.
At lunch time many employees engage in various moonlighting activities and in a number of cases the moonlighting goes beyond legitimate break periods as workers battle to make ends meet. Given the state of our economy where employees go for months without pay, many employers have tended to look aside as employees engage in moonlighting activities.
In many schools and hospitals, teachers and nurses sell their wares to students and patients respectively. Employers have looked aside because of the low salaries earned by the employees and in the case of nurses some of the things they sell will be critical for patients but not available in the hospital thus they are seen as filling the gap. There is no doubt that all these activities are illegal but they are tolerated due to the economic environment.
Even at death, there is moonlighting as allegations of police officers directing families to take bodies to particular funeral parlours for alleged commission are common. In my view this is a form of moonlighting if it really happens.
In conclusion, the list of moonlighting activities is a long one and is one of the things that affects productivity negatively and not much can be done about it until the economy stabilises and workers start earning wages that are capable of covering their basic needs so as to concentrate at work. It’s a cancer that will be difficult to get rid of.
Davies Ndumiso Sibanda can be contacted on: email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or cell No: 0772 375 235