Council Worker Uses Sick Leave for Second Job | Moonlighting in the UK [2023]

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Photo Credits: Egin Akyurt via Unsplash

In a recent case, an unnamed worker seems to have been caught moonlighting by using their sick leave from the first job to work a second job. This worker was working with the Kensington and Chelsea Council and then took up a position in another housing association.

She was said to have been on sick leave and not coming into work as she was “too ill to work”. However, when her colleagues received an email that was signed with a slightly different version of her name and her company profile picture revealed her face, an investigation was raised.

Apparently, the council found out that she was actually working at the housing association on the days she claimed to be sick and unable to work for the council. Because of the COVID lockdown, she was able to manage both jobs from home and get paid for both of them.

When the council’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Service (CAFS) discovered the situation, they were going to investigate further. However, the woman resigned before she had to face a formal hearing.

Moonlighting on the Rise

Moonlighting is taking up a second job in addition to a primary job. This is often without informing the employer and the instances of moonlighting have increased ever since COVID, and the cost of living crises.

Technically, there are no laws that prohibit a person from taking on a second job but there are a few rules to follow; not to mention, employment contracts can explicitly forbid a person from taking on a second job. However, according to numerous surveys, moonlighting has been on the rise.

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In 2022, it was reported that around 35% of full-time workers were looking for jobs with higher salaries, out of which 15% of workers were actively looking for a second job. In May 2023, research by Deloitte revealed that almost 46% of workers, among the 22000+ workers who were surveyed, had either a full-time or part-time job alongside their day job.

Davis Bell, CEO of software company Canopy, found out in 2022 that two of his engineers were working second jobs. He only found out after 2 and a half months when their poor performance at the main job was causing suspicion.

What to Keep in Mind for Moonlighting Employees

While there are no rules against taking up a second job, there are certain things employers will need to keep in mind. The first thing is that employees are generally not allowed to work for more than 48 hours a week, and this goes for when people have two jobs as well. In such cases, employers will need to ensure employees are not exceeding the hours they are supposed to work.

On the occasion that an employer needs someone to work more than 48 hours a week, they can ask the employee to sign an opt-out agreement. This will allow the employee to work for more than 48 hours with the employer’s knowledge. However, if an employer asks an employee to sign an opt-out agreement and they don’t want to, employees cannot be fired or be discriminated against for non-compliance.

Having an open conversation when employers about the second job is needed not just for the employee but for the employer as well. While they cannot stop employees, it is imperative to provide adequate information about the second job. Details like where, when and whom they work for should be communicated to the “main job” employer. This is just so employers can have an idea of what the employee is doing and ascertain whether their second job can affect their business negatively.

Almost every time, employees only take up second jobs for financial aid. It will help to have a transparent workspace where employees are free to discuss how they need financial help, and if taking up a second job is the only way to do it.

Can I Get Sacked for Taking a Second Job?

If an employment contract specifically states that an employee cannot take up a second job, then they are at risk of losing their jobs. The contract will not explicitly use the terms second job, side hustle or even moonlighting. Still, it may have a clause about “additional employment” or something similar that can prohibit someone from getting another job.

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Additionally, if an employer adds a non-compete clause wherein, employees cannot work with similar businesses and competitors, and a worker takes up a similar role, then their employment can be terminated. This is mostly because the employee could be taking business away from their main employer and potentially getting more business for their second job.

Finally, if an employee uses their sick leave for a second job (like the council worker’s case), they are likely to have their employment terminated because:

  1. They are using their sick leave for additional payment and not really working which is detrimental to the business.
  2. They have lied about the state of their health and have not acted in good faith

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