Moon­light­ing now a can­cer in work­places

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business Chronicle - Labour col­umn

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: strat­waysmail@ya­hoo.com, or cell No: 0772 375 235

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