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Firms should not pin down staff: MoS IT Chandrasekhar on moonlighting


Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Friday joined the debate on moonlighting in the software industry, saying that captive work models would fail and companies should not tether their employees to their jobs.

Chandrasekhar, addressing the annual forum of the Public Affairs Forum of India, said: “This is the age of employee-entrepreneurs and companies must now understand there has been a structural shift in the minds and attitudes of the young Indian tech workforce.”

He added the days when employees signed up with big tech majors and spent their lives on the job were long gone.

“Today’s youngsters have every sense of confidence and purpose about wanting to monetise and create more value out of his or her skills. So, the efforts of companies that want to pin their employees down and say that you should not work on your own start-up are doomed to fail,” said the minister.

Moonlighting is doing two or more jobs simultaneously. India’s IT and software industry is divided on whether companies should allow their employees to do so even after their work hours.

IT major Wipro recently sacked 300 employees after finding them working for its competitors.

Leading IT firms including Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, and IBM have condemned moonlighting, calling it cheating.

On the other hand, C P Gurnani, chief executive officer (CEO) of Tech Mahindra, said moonlighting was all right if employees kept up their efficiency and productivity.

After the pandemic set in, the IT and software services industry adopted a remote-working model, which helped employees work on other projects.

Infosys has warned employees on violating clauses that restrict dual employment. It might lead to disciplinary action and dismissal, Infosys said in an email to its employees.

The minister’s remarks came a day after Debjani Ghosh, president of the National Association of Software and Service Companies, said companies should upgrade with changing employee-engagement models in the post-pandemic time.

She termed moonlighting an issue arising from the breakdown of trust between employers and employees.

“We have to re-imagine our employee-engagement model for hybrid working, and have to build flexibility. As we do that, we have to ensure that trust becomes the bedrock of any engagement model,” Ghosh said.

Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and executive vice-president of TeamLease, said: “The world is moving towards much more fluidity in employment, but then there has to be a consensual agreement when one seeks that flexibility. One also has to realise that rules work both ways. Moreover, the Indian labour code does not allow dual employment.”

The debate over moonlighting has also sparked questions about whether the work contract signed by employees could prevent them from doing another job.

“Every employee signs a contract that spells out what is expected of her or him, and no one is coerced to sign it. But if in future your needs change then you need to sit with your employer and work out a solution,” Chakraborty said.

Chandrasekhar, however, said moonlighting should not violate contractual obligations.

“Employers expect employees to be entrepreneurial while serving them. The same people can apply it personally to themselves. The time will come when there will be a community of product builders who will divide their time on multiple projects. Just as lawyers or consultants do. This is the future of work.”

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