The Rise of the Employee Side-Hustle: Advice for Employers

folder_openEmployee Relations, Home Working, Leadership, Policies, Wellbeing

If you didn’t know any better, at first glance you might be tempted to think the ‘side-hustle’ is a brand-new dance craze.

The term actually defines a piece of work, or a job, that people take on in addition to their primary employment.  Examples range from selling clothes on eBay, to turning a creative hobby, such as photography, into a business.

The side-hustle phenomenon isn’t new (the term ‘side hustle’ itself is older than many people realise, first coming into use in 1950s America as ‘traditional’ jobs began to disappear following the recession).  However, with the advent of the digital age, there have never been more opportunities for an employee to consider starting one. 

Social media in particular has accelerated a prevailing idea that starting your own side-hustle can be a direct route to success and acclaim.  In fact, if you don’t start one, you’re missing out.

Added to this are the lasting effects of transformative world events, such as Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine.  Taken together, these events have made working from home a sustainable option, and drastically increased day-to-day living expenses worldwide.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that a recent survey by Aviva found that one in five British workers have started a side-hustle since March 2020?  The top reason given was Covid-19, with close to a third of respondents claiming they started their side-hustle to pay off debt, or simply to “make ends meet”.

How worried should employers be about the rise of the side-hustle in their workplace?

First: it’s worth knowing that from a general legal standpoint, employees can freely engage in side-hustles as long as they are doing so outside of their usual working hours, and their contract of employment does not prohibit secondary jobs.

Employees are also not obliged to inform their employers about their side-hustle, again unless their contract requires it.

While this could seem worrying at first, it’s possible that some employers could gain certain benefits from the side-hustle phenomenon.  These include increased employee wellbeing from doing something enjoyable outside of work (selling hand-crafted products was the top side-hustle reported in Aviva’s survey), and side-hustlers bringing their newly-acquired skills to bear in their workplace.

However, a recent Personnel Today article also highlights some top employer concerns regarding side-hustles, including:

  • insufficient rest time, especially since the primary employer is responsible for ensuring staff aren’t in breach of the Working Time Regulations 1998,
  • potential controversy, in particular if the employee has a social-media-based side-hustle,
  • unauthorised use of the employer’s resources to run side-hustles, and
  • reduced levels of performance resulting from a wider spread of employees’ time and attention.

So, how exactly should employers manage their ‘side-hustling’ employees?

An employer who is concerned about the rise of side-hustles in their company could begin by revising their employment contracts and wider policies.

If necessary, they may consider adding provisions that either prohibit employees from undertaking secondary employment, or ask for permission to be sought beforehand.  Restrictive covenants, which prevent employees from setting up a business in direct competition with their employer, could also be considered if appropriate.

Meanwhile, holding open conversations with employees about their side-hustles could create change that benefits everybody.  For example, if the main reason for side-hustles is genuinely to “make ends meet”, a salary review might render them unnecessary, eliminating concerns altogether.

Employers could also consider adding financial advice and wellbeing to their suite of employee benefits, as recommended by the CIPD in a recent report. 

With so much unprecedented change wreaked on the world in recent years, such listening and guidance is not only bound to be appreciated by existing employees, but has the potential to stand your organisation out as an employer of choice.

Our experienced team at Viridian HR can offer qualified advice and support regarding the management of side-hustles in your organisation, as well as a review of your current policies.  To find out more, please get in touch.

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