The Indian IT services industry is waging a war against moonlighting. Wipro chairman Rishad Premji has said that the company has fired 300 employees in the past few months for working for direct competitors while being on the rolls of Wipro.
The disclosure comes just weeks after he described moonlighting as “cheating plain and simple” in a tweet. And it comes on the heels of a stern email from Infosys to its employees saying disciplinary action, including termination, would be taken if anyone was found to be moonlighting.
Addressing an event of the All India Management Association (AIMA) in Delhi, Premji said, “Employees can have a transparent dialogue with the organisation about their second or weekend work, but we discovered 300 employees who were working for direct competitors. There is no place for them.” Premji said he has been receiving hate mail since he made the statement on Twitter, but he continues to stand by what he said then.
The massive talent shortage in technology, combined with the greater privacy provided by work-from-home, seems to have encouraged a significant section to moonlight in their spare time. Moonlighting is the practice of working for an external paid project, while being full-time on the rolls of a company. Most companies have stringent rules that prohibit employees from taking up external work, except with mutual agreement.
While some new-age companies like Swiggy and Cred have taken a more generous view of the phenomenon, much of the IT services industry has over the past few days rallied against it. TCS COO N Ganapathy Subramaniam has been quoted as saying that moonlighting is an ethical issue and that the IT sector would lose out from such practices in the long term. Sandip Patel, MD of IBM India, noted that everyone who is hired signs a contract that they would be working full-time for IBM, and “notwithstanding what they can do with the rest of their time, it (moonlighting) is not ethical.” Infosys’s email to employees noted that moonlighting is not permitted as per the employees’ code of conduct.