Does it matter if your staff have a second job?

One in five police officers now moonlighting, as report suggests NLW will prompt further surge in self-employment

One in five police officers now has a second job outside the service, according to figures released at the weekend under a Freedom of Information request – raising further questions about how employers should handle increasing instances of ‘moonlighting’ in the internet age.

There are 19,711 police officers in the UK with second jobs or business interests, according to theMail on Sunday. While this includes electricians, gardeners and drivers, there are also slimming consultants, children’s party planners and scuba-diving instructors, as well a small number of officers working in the security industry, in direct contravention of regulations.

ONS figures released last year suggest that, across the UK, 450,000 full-time employees are earning money from a second job, a total that has risen rapidly and can be attributed largely to the introduction of online skills marketplaces that allow professionals to sell their spare time by the hour.

Employers with contractual clauses explicitly banning second jobs can choose to take action if they become aware that staff are moonlighting. But Jamie Hamnett, partner at law firm Addleshaw Goddard, says it is sensible to consider whether it would affect the employee’s ability to do their normal role and when, where and for whom the other work is taking place.

“Employers don’t serve their interests well by trying to lock down what their employees are doing, particularly outside their core working hours,” he says. “And in the digital age, it would be hopeless trying to prevent this sort of thing.”

“Organisations will typically have provisions that say the employee will only work for that employer, but often that is limited to core business hours. Once you know what your rights are under the contract, have a conversation about it.”

Where an employee’s other work could pose more fundamental issues – for example, where they are working late into the night elsewhere before undertaking a job involving stringent health and safety requirements – it is more important to take action or consider changing the terms of employment, adds Hamnett.

The ONS figures do not include the growing army of self-employed workers who juggle multiple roles – many of whom have been encouraged to become self-employed by their primary employer to increase flexibility or reduce costs. A report by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) warned this week that the introduction of the national living wage (NLW) in April could lead to a further rush to encourage permanent staff into self-employment.

Nida Broughton, chief economist at SMF and co-author of the report, says there is a “strong risk” that firms will further question the cost benefits of full-time employment: “Someone who is self-employed doesn’t get the NLW and isn’t subject to other rights around holiday and sick pay. The cheaper option might be to have someone who is self-employed rather than an employee – it potentially changes the shape of the whole jobs market.”

Hamnett, however, warns businesses against taking this approach, saying it could “store up much wider, deeper problems”. He adds: “Most of the businesses we are talking to about the NLW have embraced it and see it as a positive. They are not looking for ways to get around it.

“You can have a piece of paper that says someone is self-employed, but actually that won’t be worth the paper it is written on if the true test you go through in assessing their status demonstrates that they are an employee.”

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