“…moonlighting as a matter of principle is unacceptable…” (extract from judgment)
Up to a quarter of all middle-class South Africans are reported to “moonlight”, that is to run a part-time side hustle or side business in addition to their full-time jobs. Some, it seems, go one step further and manage to hold down two full-time jobs simultaneously. No doubt the pandemic-accelerated increase in remote working has enabled that trend as much as financial pressures on employees have fuelled it.
But, as the Labour Court has once again confirmed, moonlighting without permission risks instant dismissal.
The Court’s findings apply to all employment contracts, even those without specific moonlighting policies in place, because of the breach of trust inherent in unauthorised moonlighting. To quote the Court in bullet point form –
To quote the Court again: “It would in my view be difficult for an employer to re employ an employee who has shown no remorse. Acknowledgment of wrongdoing is the first step towards rehabilitation. In the absence of a recommitment to the employer’s workplace values, an employee cannot hope to re-establish the trust which he himself has broken. Where, as in this case, an employee, over and above having committed an act of dishonesty, falsely denies having done so, an employer would, particularly where a high degree of trust is reposed in an employee, be legitimately entitled to say to itself that the risk of continuing to employ the offender is unacceptably great.”
In this case the employee’s consistent denials of wrongdoing left the university, said the Court, with no alternative but to terminate her employment. But clearly dismissal will not automatically be appropriate in all cases, particularly where it is possible to re-establish trust in a case of genuine remorse. Every case will be different and specific legal advice is essential.
Employers need to be able to justify any inconsistency in approach to similar misconduct by other employees. In this case the employee’s “consistency challenge” was groundless and rejected, but it will always be a factor in assessing whether or not dismissal is appropriate.
If you need or want to earn some extra cash on the side, tell your employer and get prior consent (in writing). Or risk dismissal.
Follow the principles set out above and think of putting something into your employment contracts to cover all possible “conflict of interest” situations including moonlighting. With the complexity of our labour laws and the downsides of getting it wrong, specific legal advice is essential.
Contact an attorney at De Klerk & Van Gend for all your Labour Law matters on 021 683-3553.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.