The cost-of-living crisis, the term coined to describe the significant financial pressures caused by rising fuel, food and other prices, along with rising inflation, is really starting to bite into household incomes, and “real” wages are on the decline as inflation soars over and above the amount most employers are able to pay. This has sparked interest in employees taking second jobs. In fact, according to research conducted by comparethemarket.com, 47% of those in employment are considering taking additional employment on, alongside their current roles.
In this article we examine the top five considerations for employers in this position.
Should an employee approach the business about taking on a second job or other form of work, the first thing to consider is the contractual wording. Does it deal with second employment in any way? The following are typical examples of when this might be the case. A clause requiring consent to be obtained prior to taking on any additional jobs or work. A clause prohibiting the employee from performing work that either directly competes with their main employment or would detract from their performance in some way. An exclusivity clause prohibiting the employee from working elsewhere. The matter will need to be discussed with the employee as to the nature of the work, and how and when it will take place. Should any of the above clauses be found in the contract of employment, then this information will need to be assessed. However, employers should be reminded that they can only limit what employees do in their own time if reasonable and proportionate to do so, such as if there is a strong reason to protect their business interests.
Employee wellbeing is of paramount importance: employees in danger of burning out or being placed under undue stress are at risk of reduced performance and absenteeism. If an employee is proposing to take on additional work, this may be a flag to their line manager that they are struggling financially and could be at a higher risk of stress-related issues. Managers must therefore tread carefully with such requests and deal with them in an open, honest and consistent way in order to bid a supportive culture that fosters a supportive dialogue. If an employee is struggling financially, or even if they are worried they may do so in the future, then automatically forbidding them from any other work is likely to cause more stress and worry. Such requests need to be seriously considered and dealt with in a reasonable manner. In dealing with the request, it would also be appropriate to signpost the employee to any internal or external support the business has, such as access to an Employee Assistance Programme or financial wellbeing tools, training or information.
Rest is vital to good health and performance at work, and employees approaching the business to take on additional work should be reminded of this, and a discussion held with them around how they are going to ensure they get this. In particular, it may be that risk assessments and their duties need to be reassessed by their main employer, especially if the additional work is strenuous or disturbs their sleep patterns.
The Working Time Regulations (WTR) 1998 establish certain minimums and maximums when it comes to weekly working hours and rest breaks. These are designed to safeguard individual employee’s health and wellbeing. What many businesses may not be aware of is that the guidance to the WTR indicates that the 48- hour maximum working week applies to total hours worked overall, rather than to the total hours worked for the particular employer. It is therefore recommended to ensure any employees taking on additional work sign a waiver to these rules. Bearing in mind the reasons why the WTR sets out these rules (ie employee health and wellbeing), working in a way that does not adhere to them can be problematic for the individual, impacting on their rest and their ability to work to their best abilities. This fact should be part of any discussions with employees about taking on additional work.
Employees that are concerned that their employer will say no if asked about alternative employment may decide to go ahead with it anyway, but not disclose it. Depending on the wording of the contract, this could amount to a disciplinary issue and formal action may need to be taken against the individual (only, of course, where it is reasonable to do so). It could also lead to tax implications if the income is not declared at all (such as cash-in-hand work). Should it become apparent that an employee has taken on a second job, jumping straight to disciplinary would be unwise, especially at the moment with the cost-of-living crisis. Investigating this thoroughly, including what the contract says, what expectations have been set with them regarding this, and why they didn’t want to inform the business is vital. It could lead to the disclosure of important information regarding the employee’s home life and circumstances that they need support with, that can then be offered or put in place. Next steps
The concept of a “side hustle”, where the employee adds to their income by doing additional work, has been around for some time. Employers looking to control this within their business should consider introducing a policy or other information for employees about what they expect from them and the rules around additional employment.