The Rising Wave of Moonlighting in India | The Times of India

The Indian IT services industry continues to tackle moonlighting issues post-pandemic. Companies employ background verification firms to prevent dual-employment. Moonlighting rates decreased from 4-5% to 1-2% due to in-office requirements. Wriju Ray mentioned 8 out of 10 IT clients conduct moonlighting checks. AuthBridge uncovered extreme cases of employees working for multiple firms simultaneously.

BENGALURU: Four years after it became a rage during the pandemic, the Indian IT services industry is still grappling with moonlighting, forcing companies to enlist background verification firms to conduct dual-employment checks before onboarding new hires.

While moonlighting — where employees take on external paid gigs while being full-time staff of a company — was as high as 4-5% of employees in an IT firm during Covid, it’s now pegged at 1-2%. This decrease is attributed to companies ensuring employees are back in office for at least a few days a week, making it harder for them to moonlight. Wriju Ray, chief business officer of identity verification platform IDfy, said that eight out of 10 clients are running moonlighting checks on their employees in the IT sector.

Still, many employees find ways to beat the system. Background verification firm AuthBridge recently uncovered an IT employee working simultaneously for “78 companies”, with all the firms crediting her PF into the same account. The woman employee, a data analyst working remotely, was caught when one of the employers triggered a dual-employment check using an AI algorithm to check for moonlighting for all employees.

“A person can have multiple employees crediting PF into the same PF account. Many companies don’t run dual-employment verification for their employees. They will conduct a basic background screening,” said Ajay Trehan, founder and CEO of AuthBridge. “The only logical explanation is she must have been running a mini BPO setup at her home with multiple terminals and enrolled people to work on a project basis. We only run a check on PF credentials for dual employment. The employer, in this case, wanted a dual employment check on all their employees. That is when we busted this case,” he said.

In another instance, AuthBridge found an employee with “15 jobs” at a given point in time. These incidents have come to light within the last six to 12 months.

Most companies have strict rules prohibiting employees from taking up external work without mutual agreement. Another background screening firm, OnGrid, encountered a case where an individual started moonlighting in 2021 with two firms but had secured “employment with 15 firms” by 2023 end. The case was tracked using the individual’s PF details. According to AuthBridge’s data, one in every 1,000 IT employees has more than three jobs simultaneously.

Companies conduct moonlighting checks regularly, mostly once a quarter, unlike in 2021, when verification checks were done only during onboarding. Quarterly checks are mostly done by companies that operate in a hybrid mode. Firms are moving towards employment history verification, which involves ascertaining the period of employment using PF data and ensuring there has been no overlap of employment at any stage, in contrast to employment verification where previous employers are contacted.

In 2021, Wipro’s chairman, Rishad Premji, disclosed that the company had fired 300 employees in the past few months for working for direct competitors while being on Wipro’s payroll. This disclosure came after he described moonlighting as “cheating — plain and simple” in a tweet.

Infosys had sent a stern email to its employees, stating that disciplinary action, including termination, would be taken if anyone was found to be moonlighting.

AuthBridge employs a rigorous process to detect dual employment scenarios using the Universal Account Number (UAN). By leveraging the UAN, the company can access ex-employer details and initiate verification procedures based on the provided information. Once clients furnish the UAN numbers, AuthBridge cross-checks for any concurrent employment during the client’s current tenure.

 

Source: The Times of India

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