HR Magazine has reported that side hustles are on the rise as the cost of living crisis continues, with more than one in three adults, or 20 million people, obtaining some form of extra income. Whether it's baking cakes, running supper clubs, or reselling clothes, some people may well be happy to stick to a 'fit it in where you can' side-hustle. However, given the recent rise in interest rates and the knock-on impact on mortgage payments, there will be those who want to take on more regular work, with a second employer, in an attempt to alleviate financial pressures. In August 2022, pensions and investment provider Royal London conducted a survey which found that 16% of workers surveyed had taken on an additional job to help pay for the cost of living increases. This equates to roughly 5.2 million people across the UK.

Employers who traditionally have been opposed to their employees working elsewhere may want to be more flexible giving the ongoing economic situation – particularly where they are unable to offer employees additional shifts or significant pay awards. Whilst you may be keen to be helpful, it’s important to do so with an eye to the future. Here are some practical considerations to bear in mind:

1. What does the contract of employment say? 

Many contracts include standard wording which prohibits employees from working for another employer, or at the very least, includes a requirement for the employee to obtain their employer's permission before taking up other employment. An employer's first port of call should always be to check the contract to ascertain exactly what is allowed and what is prohibited. You can then decide if and by how much you want to relax these provisions and whether any relaxation will be temporary or permanent.

An employer whose contract is silent on this will usually not be able to prevent an employee from taking up work elsewhere provided it does not interfere with their ability to do the job they are employed to do for you.

2. Caveats 

If you are going to relax your provisions, it’s still a good idea to require employees to tell you if they are taking up an additional role – indeed in some instances it may be appropriate to require employees to seek your consent before taking on an additional role. This allows you an element of control if the second job is at risk of having a negative impact on your brand or reputation, for example.

It should also be made clear to employees that taking on any second job, or indeed side-hustle, should not interfere with their ability to carry out their role for you. For example an employee who takes on an extra role working nights is unlikely to be in great shape to do their (literal) day job.

3. Competition 

Consider whether it’s reasonable to restrict where your employees might seek additional work. You are unlikely to want employees who have access to confidential or commercially sensitive information working for competitors, for example. The extent and reasonableness of any prohibition will depend on the nature of the employee's role.

4. Working Time Regulations

It’s important to remember the Working Time Regulations. If an employee is taking on an extra job they may need to opt out of the 48 hour working week. Make sure that employees are required to tell you about the hours and nature of the role, to help you monitor this and to also allow to make any you necessary health and safety assessments.

5. Employee well-being 

Employers have a general duty of care towards employees, and this should be at the forefront of your mind against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis. Allowing employees to take on second jobs can lead to burn-out, which could have a long-term detrimental impact. The survey carried out by Royal London showed this to be a very real issue, with 28% of employees surveyed working more than 48 hours per week and 19% working more than 56 hours per week (which equates to over 11 hours a day over a typical five day working week). The survey also showed that 35% of employees were feeling more anxious and 22% were experiencing trouble sleeping. Make sure any well-being assistance you offer is well-advertised and make sure line managers are aware of how to spot the signs of stress.   

That being said, an employee taking on a side hustle which they enjoy can also have a positive impact on their well-being and help nurture skills such as business acumen which they can transfer to the workplace.

While the challenges of the cost of living crisis continue, deploying a clear and comprehensive strategy on second jobs will help you strike the right balance between offering flexibility to employees who are struggling financially and maintaining a productive and cohesive workforce.

Want to know more about second jobs – why not watch our video here. For further information on how you can support your employees more generally during the cost of living crisis, please see our guide for employers here.