Side hustle: What employers need to know

A recent survey by Aviva revealed that since March 2020, 19% of employees have started a “side business” alongside their main employment.[1] – an additional job or business, often used in connection with entrepreneurial activity, in which an employee receives income in addition to his main employment.

This phenomenon is not new, but with the arrival of the digital age and the rise of remote work, employees have more opportunities than ever to engage in side jobs. Additionally, non-traditional occupations such as influencing social media have become more viable sources of income.

Here, attorney Daisy Watson, an expert in employment law at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD), examines the legal implications and practical implications of side jobs for employers navigating this new field of work.

Why are employees taking up side jobs in the current climate?
The post-COVID-19 work environment is a very different area where many employers are adopting flexible and hybrid working models. This gave employees more freedom to pursue not only leisure activities but also forms of additional income generation.

The cost of living crisis is also likely to support workers’ decisions to take secondary occupations; The latest ONS statistics show that the regular wage has fallen at the fastest rate in more than a decade, with inflation significantly outstripping wage growth.[2].

There is no doubt that social media has a significant impact. The message seems clear on every social media platform: If you want to be successful, you must do more. Be an influencer, sell handmade goods, engage in affiliate marketing, post funny videos, become self-employed or run nutrition classes: the opportunities seem endless.

Why side hustle might interest employers?

  • Insufficient rest time for employees: Employees may find it difficult to take advantage of adequate rest time, even if they do their side work outside of working hours for their main job. Also, if employees don’t get adequate rest breaks, employers may be concerned about violating the 1998 Working Time Regulation, which requires employees to work no more than 48 hours per week on average.

Employers also have a responsibility, to the extent reasonably practicable, to ensure the health and safety of their staff and to ensure that excessive working hours do not pose a risk to employees or other staff members. If it turns out that employees are putting themselves or others at risk, an option for employers may be to ask the employee to rush their work time or to agree that the employee reduces their work hours.

  • Employee performance: If an employee works long hours on an additional income stream, their energy reserves and concentration times are likely to decrease, leading to performance problems. The possibility of a side run should also be considered when investigating performance issues, but no assumptions should be made. Problems can arise when an employee fails to provide information about a side job and denies having other interests outside the job. In this scenario, skill and disciplinary procedures should be followed where appropriate.
  • Monitoring the issue: In response to survey results, employers may want to monitor remote staff more closely to make sure they are not working at their jobs during the hours they should be working for their employer. This raises potential issues with privacy and data protection.
  • Side hustle can damage the reputation of the employer’s business: Depending on the activities the employee is engaged in, for example, there is a risk of discrediting and/or discrediting the employer’s business if he publishes opinions on controversial topics. Topics as impressive.
  • Use of company equipment, supplies, and products: Employers may be concerned that the employee is using company equipment or supplies to support additional revenue streams, especially when making videos of the employer’s products as a social media influencer, or using company materials to make merchandise to sell.
  • Intellectual property rights: Where employees use company equipment or do side jobs at the same time as their main employment, this may raise questions as to whether their employers have any intellectual property rights over anything they create.
  • Working two jobs at the same time: While working entirely remotely, we anecdotally know that some employees can work two traditional full-time jobs at the same time while keeping their other jobs private from their employers. . Employers may be particularly concerned if employees are not dedicating their regular working hours to their jobs. Employees who do so are likely to violate terms of employment, which could be an issue of misconduct leading to disciplinary action and possibly dismissal.
  • Non-compete: If an employee’s side job is in the same industry as his original employment, employers may be concerned about whether their employees are profiting from the information they receive from their original employment or are directly competing with their employers.
  • Employees at risk of quitting: If an employee’s side hustle becomes particularly lucrative, employers may worry that the employee will resign to pursue their second job full-time, meaning they have to hire a new one in a very tight job market.

What are the benefits for employees working in side jobs?

  • Increased well-being – often employees rush to do something they particularly enjoy. They may find that their side hustle gives them a relief from their normal daily chores and is good for their mental health. Applying restrictions can lead to demoralization.
  • Bringing new skills into their core employment – ​​employees can learn valuable transferable skills from their side jobs, which means they can ultimately outperform in their core employment.

So what can employers do?
There is nothing legally that prevents an employee from doing a side job if they do it outside of normal working hours and it doesn’t violate their employment contract. However, employers should regularly review employment contracts and policies to ensure that they contain provisions that prohibit an employee from engaging in secondary employment when necessary or that require permission before any competing work is undertaken.

Employers may want to update or impose restrictive agreements to ensure that employees do not establish businesses in direct competition with them. While restrictive contracts are difficult to enforce, they can be a deterrent.

Finally, if it is clear that employees are engaging in side jobs for a living, employers should consider reviewing wages to ensure they pay market rates and ultimately make it more attractive for employees to combine working hours and their commitment to a singular role. .

[1] One in five Brits has started a “side hustle” since March 2020 – Aviva plc

[2] Labor market overview, United Kingdom – Office for National Statistics (

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