“Side hustles”: how your employer might approach you having multiple jobs

HR expert Kate Palmer advises on what you might expect from your employer if you do multiple jobs.

Employee using a calculator and notepad


There are lots of reasons why someone might take on more than one job. They might want to gain additional skills, pursue an ambition, or just earn some extra money.

But while side hustling has its benefits, an employee working multiple jobs could raise issues for them and their employers. So if you have got other work on the side or you’re looking to start up a side gig, be aware of what your employer might do.

Open conversations

An employee having a second job doesn’t need to be a problem if you’re both on the same page.

In fact, giving employees the freedom to bump up their earnings or fulfil other ambitions can be good for morale.

In most cases, it would also likely be unreasonable to ban an employee from getting a second job. No law says you can’t take on other work or you have to tell your employer about the other work you do. So unless it says otherwise in your contract, you can do as you wish.

However, even if you don’t have any rules in your contract, your employer may have valid reasons for wanting you to at least give a heads-up about their other jobs.

It’s good for your employer to set their expectations upfront and it’s reasonable to ask you to be open with your employer. But if employers were wanting to lay down some ground rules to protect their business, they would need to go one step further and put this in writing.

Setting rules in staff contracts

If employers want their employee to tell them about other jobs upfront, they could include a clause in their contract that says they have to disclose this information.

They could also lay out certain restrictions on the type of work an employee can do outside of their business if they want to. They might do this if they’re worried about a conflict of interest. If an employee is also working for a competitor, there’s the fear that they could be sharing confidential information.

To avoid this, employers can say in their contracts that their employee cannot work for a competing organisation and specify how long this restriction will last (for example, up to three months after they leave the company). This should come under a ‘restrictive covenant’ clause in contracts.

Employers might also be concerned that their employee could be doing work for someone else on their clock. So employers can specify this in their contracts too and the consequences for anyone who breaks this rule.

If employers want to make any changes to their employee’s contract though, they need to bear in mind that they will need employees’ written consent to do this.

Employers should check if employees are exceeding the weekly working limit

That might be the legal bits covered, but then employers have got health & safety considerations to think about.

If an employee works multiple jobs, they could be working an excessive number of hours.

Under the Working Time regulations, employees shouldn’t work more than 48 hours a week on average over a 17-week period.

That’s not to say employees can’t ever go over this limit but if they do, they should even it out. This might mean working fewer hours in other weeks so they don’t exceed this limit on average. Employees can opt out of the 48-hour weekly working limit, but they have to sign an agreement.

But if an employee works two or more jobs, they might be exceeding the recommended limit all the time without having opted out or without you even knowing. An employee could be working 35 hours for one employer and an extra 20 elsewhere.

And while employers are only responsible for managing the hours their employee works for them, if they suspect you might be exceeding the recommended limit, they are advised to address it. Working for too long without enough rest could be damaging to both your health and performance.

Not just that but it could become a safety hazard. A tired employee is more likely to make mistakes. So this could become a serious problem if you have to operate dangerous machinery and you’re not fully alert.

If employers think you are working over the limit, employers should sit down with you and see if you would agree to opt out of the working limit or reduce your hours. If you want to opt-out, employers should carry out a health & safety assessment and regularly check in on you. Because if employers believe you could be a risk to yourself or anyone else, they will want evidence to back this up.

Disciplinary action 

If you do start working for a competitor, work for someone else on your employer’s time or your performance dips, employers do have grounds to take disciplinary action.

Whether it’s for a breach of contract, breach of trust, or performance-related, a disciplinary process to manage the issue can be started. And as long as employers follow a full and fair process, they won’t put themselves at legal risk by doing so.

But if they clearly set ground rules and openly communicate, they won’t have to go there. And you and your employer can have an arrangement that suits you both, while minimising the legal and health & safety risks.

*Kate Palmer is HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula which provides HR and health & safety support for small businesses.

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