Opinion: many people embark on jobs on the side to maximise their talent, make full use of potential and earn some extra income

A nixer is the practice of having a second job outside work hours. The second job could be related or unrelated to the first job. For example, John is doing a nixer if he is working 9 to 5 as a solicitor and working part time as professor of law. Louise is doing nixers if she works as a salesperson for a company during the day and has a YouTube channel to teach car driving in the evening.

According to the Revenue Commissioners, the term ‘nixer’ in the context of tax and social welfare refers to part-time work that an individual undertakes where the income is not reported to relevant authorities. Nixer originally implied that payment was not declared for taxation, but now refers to any work that is not part of one's regular job.

Moonlighting, after-hours jobs, side hustles, the black economy, dual employment and passion projects are some of the other terms used to describe this practice. The second job is usually taken up after normal work hours and is usually an evening job so it is associated with the rising of moon and is referred to as moonlighting.

Allowing employees to pursue passion projects that they find fulfilling at a personal level may leave them feeling more satisfied. Photo: Getty Images

According to researcher Deborah Sussman, moonlighting is a growing way of life. People engage in moonlighting to meet regular household expenses, pay off debts, buy something special, save for the future, gain experience, build up a business or simply to enjoy the work of the second job. Many employees engage in moonlighting to maximise their talent and make full use of their potential.

The biggest challenge that employees face when moonlighting is that of fatigue. In this era of work from home, physical fatigue may not be very severe in the short term for white-collar employees, but mental fatigue always exists. For blue-collar employees, it’s both the physical and mental fatigue.

Moonlighting can have adverse effects on an employee's performance in the primary job. Another major drawback of moonlighting may be a disturbed work life balance. The prime reason behind promoting a compressed workweek (four-day work schedule) is to enable a better work life balance, but moonlighting in another job might defeat the very purpose behind a compressed working week.

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Many companies are strictly against dual employment. These organisations believe it could lead to conflict of interest, loss of productivity at the primary job and also lead to data breaches and loss of reputation. For example, if a schoolteacher takes modelling as a second job to earn extra income, the school might complain about a loss of reputation.

Moonlighting policies are a common feature at many companies. These outline if an employee can or cannot have a secondary job and if the employee needs to seek approval in advance before taking a second job. These policies are usually contained in the employee handbook or the employment contract.

Work ethics demands respecting the company’s policy and so does the psychological contract between employees and employers. Employees must remain wary of the possible perils of moonlighting. A Birmingham nurse was struck off after she was caught moonlighting as a religious radio presenter. She was granted sick leave by her employers after she told her bosses that she was suffering from shoulder pain. Later, she was found guilty of dishonestly undertaking paid work while on sick leave and not declaring she was working elsewhere.

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While many companies prevent employees from moonlighting, some others are fine with it if the employees seek permission in advance or where the second job has no impact on the main job. Some employers allow moonlighting because it helps their employees to make extra money, which can ease pressure on them for wage increase.

Allowing employees to pursue passion projects that they find fulfilling at a personal level may leave employees feeling more satisfied. In these cases, moonlighting works as a retention tool for the company and reduces employee turnover.

There is no specific legislation prohibiting or allowing moonlighting, so some employers probably allow moonlighting simply to stay on the right side of the law. An important legal case that should be mentioned here is Transdev Ireland Ltd v Caplis. After Luas operator Transdev Ireland discovered their train driver Mr Caplis was moonlighting by night as a taxi driver, they dismissed him for gross misconduct. Mr Caplis' contract with Transdev clearly forbid him from engaging in other paid employment without his employer's permission.

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Mr Caplis brought an unfair dismissal claim to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). Transdev shielded its decision to dismiss by pointing towards the safety-critical nature of the role of a Luas driver and the WRC agreed with Transdev. Mr Caplis appealed against this decision to the Labour Court in 2019. The Labour Court overturned the WRC decision and ordered Mr Caplis’s immediate re-employment. Transdev, the Luas operator appealed this decision to the High Court (Court). The high court dismissed Transdev's appeal and affirmed the re-engagement of Mr Caplis.

Today, there are multiple opportunities to moonlight as many online platforms offer part time jobs or project-based jobs. The work from home model which became popular thanks to the pandemic, is bound to promote moonlighting as employees now do not have to spend time and energy to travel to workplaces. The temptation to monetise this extra time may be too hard to resist for many.

Then, there is the growing popularity of 'quiet quitting', where an employee does not quit the job outright but works to rule within the defined hours. Quiet quitting may provide further impetus to the practice of moonlighting Switching to a four-day work schedule, often referred to as a 'compressed workweek', is likely to further encourage some employees to opt for nixers. With moonlighting likely to play a bigger role in work in the future, maybe it's time to have well defined rules and laws around the practice?


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ