“Side hustles”: how to manage an employee with multiple jobs

HR expert Kate Palmer has some advice for employers on how to manage the increasing number of employees who have more than one job.


An employee working more than one job is not uncommon, although sometimes tricky to navigate.

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 your employee has got other work on the side or they’re looking to start up a side gig, don’t be afraid to…

Have an open conversation

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

In fact, giving your staff 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 your employee from getting a second job. No law says they can’t take on other work or they have to tell you about the other work they do. So unless it says otherwise in their contract, they can do as they wish.

However, even if you don’t have any rules in your contract, you may have valid reasons for wanting your employee to at least give you a heads up about their other jobs. So, don’t feel that you can’t approach your employee to find out more.

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

Establish rules in your staff contracts

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

You can also lay out certain restrictions on the type of work your employee can do outside of your business if you want to. You might do this if you’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, you can say in your contracts that your employee cannot work for a competing organisation and specify how long this restriction will last (for example, up to three months after they leave your company). This should come under a ‘restrictive covenant’ clause in your contracts.

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

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

Check if your employee is exceeding the weekly working limit

That might be the legal bits covered, but then you’ve got health & safety considerations to think about.

If your 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 your 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. Your employee could be working 35 hours for you and an extra 20 elsewhere.

And while you are only responsible for managing the hours your employee works for you, if you suspect they might be exceeding the recommended limit, it’s good to address it. Working for too long without enough rest could be damaging to both your employee’s 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 they have to operate dangerous machinery and they’re not fully alert.

If you think your employee is working over the limit, sit down with them and see if they would agree to opt out of the working limit or reduce their hours. If they want to opt-out, you should carry out a health & safety assessment and regularly check in on them. Because if you believe they could be a risk to themselves or anyone else, you’ll want evidence to back you up when you step in.

Take disciplinary action if you need to

If your employee does start working for a competitor, work for someone else on your time, or their performance dips, you do have grounds to take disciplinary action.

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

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

If you think your employee’s other work commitments are impacting your workplace, don’t hesitate to seek expert advice if you need to. Taking the right steps to navigate these issues will help you and your employee reach an agreement, so you can prevent problems ahead of time.

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

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