Wipro fires 300 staff for moonlighting for other companies

10 October 2022 Consultancy.in 3 min. read
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Wipro has cast 300 of its Indian staff out, on grounds that they had obtained secondary employment without consent. The crackdown on ‘moonlighting’ has been received with mixed feedback – praised by some, and criticised by others.

Like many other groups in the IT services sector, Wipro staff adopted remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath.

For some workers, this newfound freedom coincided with workers taking on jobs at other companies while being employed by Wipro, also known as moonlighting. At the end of September, a group of around 300 employees who allegedly demonstrated this behaviour were uncovered – and fired.

Wipro fires 300 staff for moonlighting for other companies

Explaining the company’s actions, Chairman Rishad Premji said that the behaviour of moonlighting employees was “plain and simple cheating.”

“It is very simple. It is an act of integrity violation. We terminated the services of those people… If you look at the definition of moonlighting, it is having a second job secretively. As a part of transparency, individuals and organisations can have very candid conversations about whether they want to play in a band at night, or work on a project over the weekend.”

“But there is no space for someone to work for Wipro and its competitor. They would feel exactly the same way if they discovered it, too.”

Wipro’s move has however led triggered a major discussion in the IT sector, and beyond. Advocates have said that the move is understandable, because it is ‘common practice’ for employees to not work for rival companies. In fact, according to one estimate, over 90% of Indian employment contracts contractually forbid their full time employees to take on any secondary job.

At the other side of the table, critics focus on the legal side of the matter.

There is no specific law in India that prohibits moonlighting, and there is also no overarching legislation to stop dual employment. While there are a small number of restrictions in place on double employment, these target specific sectors, with IT services not one of them.

Accountant and consultant CA Garima Bajpai took to Twitter to explain that “employees in the IT sector are not bound by any overreaching laws restricting dual employment.” As such, unless an employer’s contract explicitly forbids moonlighting (which was reportedly not the case at Wipro), then it is “none of their business” what their staff do in their spare time – whether that is “play in a band” or “work for Wipro and its competitor”.

In fact, a growing number of technology sector players have suggested that employees can do as they please on their own time. Tech Mahindra CEO CP Gurnani recently stated he also had no objection to workers taking on secondary jobs. Meanwhile, digital food delivery portal Swiggy recently declared on-payroll employees could take up work or projects apart from their regular work.

Others critics took to the internet to point out that the stagnant pay of leading IT operators leaves staff with little choice but to look for additional work. One engineer, going by the handle ‘@Enginerd’ suggested, “it's just another fact that TCS, Infosys, Wipro are still paying 3.5lakh to an engineering graduate, a salary which they used to give in 2010 and it's same in 2022”, before arguing, “if employees won't work at two companies how else they'll survive?

Meanwhile, Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate – a trade union working for the welfare and rights of IT sector employees – has also condemned Wipro’s actions. A statement from the union’s leader noted that the ”unethical move of the organisation” should be “reviewed legally by judiciary.”

President Harpreet Singh Saluja added, “The arbitrary termination of employees is unethical and illegal, and NITES union will leave no stone unturned to provide justice to aggrieved employees.”

Wipro’s firing of the 300 staff also seems to have coincided with a diktat for staff to return to offices. Employees will be required to work from the office at least three days out of Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from mid-October. This has led other critics to claim the sackings are part of a power play to pressure staff back into offices more quickly.