Majority of leaders see employees with a second job as a risk, survey finds

Experts predict HR will face more pressure from workers taking on additional employment and may ‘choose to turn a blind eye’

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The majority of employers (85 per cent) believe there are more risks for organisations – such as increased absences, reputational risks and conflicts of interest, alongside burnout and productivity issues – if employees have undertaken a second job, research has found.

The study by Partners&, which polled 169 senior HR, finance and C-suite professionals, representing a combined workforce of almost 189,000 employees, found that only 9 per cent of employers felt there were no extra risks to their organisation with people who have more than one job.

Pointing at some of the practical risks that come with additional employment, Alan Lewis, partner at Constantine Law, said employees with second jobs “could be working such long hours in aggregate across two or more jobs that the employers could be in breach of the 48-hour limit per week imposed by the Working Time Regulations”. 

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In addition, staff could end up “being unavailable to carry out necessary overtime work for one employer if they are also carrying out work for another” or they may simply “be too tired because of not having enough sleep”, he said.

The research also revealed that more than one in three employers (36 per cent) are either aware of (17 per cent) or suspect that (19 per cent) their employees are now undertaking a second job in response to the cost of living crisis.

But only 8 per cent indicated that their contracts of employment specifically exclude staff from working concurrently for another employer. 

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Steve Herbert, wellbeing and benefits director at Partners&, said the cost of living crisis has caused many to have “unprecedented cost issues”, but that while taking up additional employment is understandable, it does expose the primary employer to greater people risks.

He pointed out that many employers “may choose to turn a blind eye”, but “the real question for HR departments is whether they really wish to look into this issue and what action to take if so”.

With the potential risks to the primary employer being many and varied, Herbert said that problems related to extra employment “could become a major challenge for HR departments in the year ahead”, especially as “there's more pressure on HR people than there has been for a while”.

Lisa Seagroatt, founder of consultancy HR Fit for Purpose, agreed that this might add more to HR’s plate, but she said managers were the first to play a role in such situations. “Line managers need to be keeping an eye on what's going on with their people before it ends up in the HR spectrum where we're looking at issues around performance and disciplinary,” she said, adding that managers needed to monitor whether their staff were “tired, sick or they're not performing, and address it before it becomes an issue”.

Sarah Williams, head of employment at Taylors Solicitors, said employers might want to introduce a robust policy that ensures employees ask permission before accepting second employment. “When such a request is made, managers should have a discussion with the employee making the request to ascertain what the second job entails and whether there is a risk to the business, and they should also inquire about hours of work,” she explained.

Recent research by Censuswide also found that 16 per cent of UK employees – amounting to 4.5 million people – were considering taking a second job to make ends meet, with a fifth (19 per cent) – a total of 5.4 million people – expecting to look for a new job with better benefits or a higher salary in 2023.