Is it unethical to work a second job?

With more people working a second job than ever before, a career expert lifts the lid on the ethics of having a side hustle.
second job

With inflation and the cost of living ever-increasing, you might be inclined to pick up a second job on the weekend or after hours to make a bit of extra cash. 

Whether you plan on moonlighting on the weekends or following your passion with a lucrative side hustle, a second job is a viable – and increasingly necessary – way to bring in more income.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, approximately 950,000 Australians (which makes up approximately 7 per cent of the workforce) have at least two jobs. This percentage is the highest rate of second job holders since 1994. With so many of us already working second jobs, and undoubtedly more of us looking into the prospect, we’re delving into the ethics of having a second job.

“A secret second job conjures images of a professional making excuses to sneak in two sets of team meetings, deadlines, and work, but the reality is a second job is likely a necessity to make ends meet, or a side hustle based on a passion project,” Cayla Dengate, Career Expert at LinkedIn, explains.

second job
Whether it’s a side hustle or a weekend gig, a second job is a viable way to bring in more income.

What are the ethics around working a side gig?

Working a second job after your regular 9-5 or on the weekends is not only incredibly normal, in a lot of circumstances, it’s necessary. 

So long as your side gig does not overlap with your regular job, hinders the performance of your regular duties or impacts the reputation of your main place of employment, it’s not unethical to work a second job.

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates 6.7% of employed people work two jobs, with young people the most likely to have two jobs. The most ethical way to work two jobs is to have an open and honest conversation with your manager about it and ensure that you are able to comfortably manage both,” Cayla explains.

Should you tell your boss that you work a second job?

Having a second job might feel like “cheating” on your main 9-5, but in reality, it’s something that many people across the country do. When you secure your side gig, you might be wondering whether or not you should, or need to, inform your boss.

“The best thing for your own peace of mind is honesty. We all have commitments outside of work — whether it’s a second job, a family-related responsibilities or a dedication to fitness and mental health. By being clear with your boss, you’re removing barriers to allow you to take control of your own professional career,” Cayla advises.

Being open and transparent with your boss might be the best way to go, however, it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

However, it’s important to note that before you speak to your boss, or even start your second job search, that you check your employment contract. Some contracts may specifically stipulate that you cannot engage in extra jobs outside of your main gig.

Other contracts may also have a non-compete clause. This essentially means that if your side gig is within the same industry as your day job, it could be a breach of contract. 

“Once you know, have an open and honest conversation with your boss to ensure you feel more aligned with their expectations and feel comfortable setting reasonable expectations to help balance your schedule,” Cayla says.

“Saying ‘I am working a second job’ may be intimidating, but you may find that it spurs on other useful conversations around time management, remuneration and career goals. Before having that conversation, it’s worth getting clear on your contract to ensure it allows you to work a second job, this isn’t necessarily a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

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