'Theft & deception' | Was this boss right to sack staff after discovering they had second jobs?

Was this boss right to sack staff after discovering they had second jobs?

A CEO has admitted to sacking two employees after discovering they were working second jobs.

Davis Bell, CEO of tech firm Canopy, took to LinkedIn to explain that two recently-hired engineers had hidden the fact that they also were also employed elsewhere during the recruitment process, prompting the firm to dismiss them after learning the truth.

Side hustles and part-time second jobs have risen in popularity in recent years. Some have unfortunately had no choice but to seek extra work due to the cost-of-living crisis, while others have voluntarily sought out more work to generate wanted - not needed - higher income.

However, what makes Bell’s case more complex, as he explains, is that the staff caught red-handed at Canopy weren’t simply moonlighting, they were working full-time at two different firms, thus causing a huge breach of trust and also resulting in poor work performance.

"They were following a new trend of picking up a second, full-time job while lying about it to both employers,” Bell wrote on LinkedIn.

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“This is not about side hustles or moonlighting. These were people holding down two, full-time synchronous jobs and lying about it - trying to be in two meetings at once, etc. Their early performance was really bad, and fortunately we have great managers who sniffed them out very quickly.”

He went on: “Whenever I read stories in the media about people doing this I'm usually surprised that they don't make a bigger deal of the core moral issues at play: "working" two full-time jobs is stealing, and it also involves a great deal of lying and deception.

"It's a new form of theft and deception, and not something in which an ethical, honest person would participate."

Bell’s comments sparked such a debate that he eventually updated the post to confirm he had turned off all comments.

The rise of the second job

While this issue unfolded in the US, the issue of how one should approach employees working more than one job is incredibly relevant to the UK HR scene.

In fact, 18 million workers in the UK will have a second job or “side hustle” if the cost of living does not fall, according to recruiter Randstad.

In a Randstad UK poll of 3,000 workers, 55 per cent said they would consider taking on a second job if the economy continued along its current trajectory. 32.8 million were people employed in the United Kingdom in the three months to August 2022.

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Victoria Short, chief executive of recruiter Randstad UK said: “A few years ago, if you had a second, it was about improving your life financially - paying down an old credit card or saving for a deposit for a first home, say. It might even have been something you did to fill the time or if you were bored in your current role.

"Even as recently as the summer, only one in five of us had a side hustle. Well, not any more. The cost of almost everything has gone up, while pay has not been increasing; in real terms pay for most people has been declining. This gives people an incentive to develop extra income. Increasingly, the cost of living crisis means a side hustle is about keeping your head above water and people are relying on second and third jobs to survive. The worrying thing is that such a huge swathe of the population thinks they’re going to need one in the near future”.

The downside of second jobs

Randstad says that side hustles aren’t without their costs, specifically, they impact on time to relax, socialise and unwind. These are all key to good mental health in the workplace.

Short said: “Most people cannot realistically fit in another 15 hours of work every week without it impacting on their lives significantly, whether that’s driving customers, delivering takeaways or walking other people’s dogs. While we’re past the peak of the post pandemic hiring spree, the demand for workers is still there - there is an acute labour shortage. But most people will get burnt out pretty quickly without a day of rest, and this could contribute to the increased number of businesses reporting an outbreak of quiet quitting.

“I’d suggest that anyone thinking of taking on another job, should evaluate their current role first. Are you getting paid enough to cover the rise in living costs? If not, can you increase your salary through pay negotiations, upskilling or ultimately looking for a new job with a pay rise? It’s important to consider your current job before you start trying to squeeze in another.”

What could HR do if staff have a side hustle?

Karen Holden, CEO of A City Law Firm told HR Grapevine that if an employee has a side hustle, it is crucial to get as much information as possible regarding the nature of the venture.

“You need to be mindful about whether there is any risk that the employee will be competing for business against the employer and whether any intellectual property being created for the side hustle may actually be of value to the employer.

“You need to consider whether the side hustle should really be run through the business of the employer, this is more likely to be the case where the employee is in the creative space or responsible for business development.

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“HR should also consider whether the employee is still able to safely perform its role for the business and closely monitor any performance issues which may arise as a result from the employee being distracted or tired,” Holden added.

Additionally, the legal expert said that if an employer is accepting of side hustles, it should put in place clear policies and boundaries.

“[This will] ensure that employees still provide the agreed level of commitment to their employer, fulfil its contractual obligations, not compete and not use company resources for its own side hustle including company time, intellectual property, trade secrets, confidential information and/or equipment,” Holden continued.

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Comments (1)

  • Maz
    Tue, 25 Oct 2022 11:14am BST
    What about MPs? Our local MP works full-time job as an MP and works 28 hours as a Doctor. If it is ok for someone to run the country to work those hours and be totally competent then why not other people? If it is not acceptable for "normal employees" then MPs should be setting the standard. Once again one rule for MPs another for everyone else. BTW I don't think that is is possible to be effective at two jobs working the hours our MP works.

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