Is it OK for an employee to have two jobs?

1 in 10 UK employees are considering a second job in 2023 to make ends meet. It’s not illegal, but it can lead to burnout. Just how supportive should HR be?

Bharat Jain • 
Is it OK for an employee to have two jobs?

Research published on People Management Online commissioned by Unum revealed that 1 in 10 employees are thinking about taking a second job in 2023 – which amounts to about 4.5 million UK workers.

You might not be surprised to hear that the main reason for doing this was to make ends meet in these economically challenging times. As well as increasing one’s financial security the other important benefit of working a second job, cited by 70% of the Sumup survey respondents, is that it ‘adds value to one’s life and makes things more interesting.’

Of course, there are drawbacks to working a second job for both employee and employer: there is the potential for burnout as second-jobbers often work more hours than the 48-hour week recommended/mandated maximum. This harms work life balance, potentially making employees less productive at work, and reducing the time they have to destress, relax and enjoy life, friends, and family.

It’s not illegal to work two jobs.

For the avoidance of any doubt, it is not illegal for an employee to work two jobs at the same time: the law in the UK does not prevent people from taking secondary employment. So, as long as there are no contractual restrictions, employees are entirely free to take a second job.

So, how might HR handle the situation if they become aware that an employee has, or is looking for, a second job? Given the cost-of-living crisis and the fact that employment lawyers suggest that it would be atypical to prohibit an employee from taking a second job, employers should be naturally supportive of these endeavours or risk falling out of step with the mood of the workforce.

That said it’s not the wild west, HR should require employees to notify them of a second job which allows the employee’s average working hours and rest breaks to be managed in line with the working time directive.  This could include asking the employee to sign an opt-out agreement or reducing their working hours to comply with the 48-hour limit.

HR software can help manage second job scenarios.

The working time directive limitation is something that can be effectively managed by good HR software. A best of breed HR software tool should  let the employee log into their own personal dashboard and interact with both companies using the same login details – assuming, of course, that both companies use the same HR system.

This may feel a little uncomfortable to imagine, but to be clear, I’m not talking about two companies sharing an account with one HR software provider. I actually mean that in situations where each company has their own instance of the software, the employee shouldn’t have to set up two different accounts. In an ideal world, they should just select which company they want to log into.

In other words, good HR software will make it easy for the employee to effectively coordinate working hours between the two companies to comply with the working time directive.

Working for the competition

Your people managers will also not be happy to find that any of your employees are second jobbing for the competition. If you have clauses in your employee contracts prohibiting second jobbing for a competitor, HR will need to make employees aware that such an action is a breach of contract. Disciplinary action may be required depending on the circumstance. If you don’t have non-compete clauses, you may need to seek legal advice as to your best course of action.

We don’t want to demonise second jobbing: it is an economic necessity for many employees and the majority manage the situation well without it impacting their primary job.

Certain industries such as copywriting, seasonal jobs, and the part-time services sector rely on second jobbers who have secure employment elsewhere.

The Guardian gave an example of Katya who took on a second job in payroll and has been doing this successfully for 6 years without burning the candle at both ends. This shows that second jobs aren’t always a bad thing, plenty of people make them work effectively for employer and employee.

However, the Guardian did also report on a single mother successfully working a  full time job as an NHS Analyst on £41,000 a year who took on a pizza delivery driver second job in August last year. She is working 60-to-75-hour weeks! There are obvious issues with this arrangement for the long term so it’s not all plain sailing.

The reality is that the economic and cultural norm these days is for people to have second jobs.   While financial imperatives are important, the main reason that many people in the UK take up second jobs is to increase their life satisfaction by following a passion, finds this research from Sumup.

The general advice for employers is to embrace this second-job trend while operating within the broadly permissive legal framework that surrounds it. To do otherwise would risk alienating the workforce at a time when second jobbing has become so crucial to the economic survival of so many people in Britain.

The exception to this is, of course, second jobbing for the competition which can do material harm to the business, and this may need to be prohibited using the correct legal channels.