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What should HR do if an employee gets a second job?

Employment lawyer Isobel Goodman said HR teams must be equipped to handle the trend of additional employment -

As the cost of living crisis continues to squeeze employees, second jobs are on the up. What are HR’s obligations?

More than one in three adults in the UK, or 20 million people, now have multiple incomes, according to research by the service provider Utility Warehouse.

By 2025, the research estimates, 47% of the UK’s adult population could be earning an extra income, compared with less than 10% in 2017.

Read more: Side hustles on the rise as cost of living crisis continues

Second jobs can range from ‘moonlighting’, typically a second job done in secret and after normal working hours, to side hustles, which are generally freelance or piecework in nature, providing a supplemental income. Some employees have even been known to work two full-time jobs at once.

Isobel Goodman, associate in the employment team Charles Russell Speechlys, said that HR teams must be equipped to handle this trend.

She told HR magazine: “The influx of multiple jobs is driven by the cost of living crisis and it’s something we’ve seen for a while. However, it’s important to distinguish between when this is permitted under an employee’s contract and when it's a matter of employer discretion.”

Regulations around second jobs start with the employment contract, which sometimes will include a contractual term that prevents an employee from taking on a second job.

Goodman said: “In some contracts, there might be a term prohibiting a second job, but some contracts have a term which allows employees to take on additional employment, with a caveat that they may need to notify the employer or get consent from the employer to do so.”

She added one of the biggest risks of employees having multiple jobs is performance and productivity issues.

“If employees are tired and fatigued by the extra work, they’re likely to make mistakes in their primary jobs. Tiredness can also lead to health and safety issues if the job involves operating heavy machinery or driving.”

Employers should also ensure that the employee’s second job does not breach working time regulations, which stipulate employees should not work for over 48 hours a week.

Goodman said: “Employees must sign an opt-out agreement if they have to work more than 48 hours a week. If they’re working a second job in secret, there's a risk they haven't done so, which would put the employer in breach of regulations.”

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Other concerns include confidentiality and competition law.

“If the second job is in the same or an adjacent industry, confidential information could be leaked to a secondary employer. Also, if the employee is doing additional work for a competitor, this could breach their contract or create a conflict of interest.”

Goodman said while there is no standard policy for moonlighting, HR should refer back to employment contracts and prioritise transparency, to avoid potential safety, productivity or compliance issues.

“If employers are allowing second jobs, there is no one size fits all policy. However, it is much better to encourage an open and honest culture to limit the HR risks that could arise. A situation when an employee is working a second job in secret is the most likely to cause a disciplinary or breach of working time regulations.”