By Nico Strydom
Many individuals are no longer able to survive on a single income and have to augment their income with a second work or freelancing.
However, it’s very important to make sure what your contract of employment or work policy determines regarding freelancing or a second job, even it it’s your own business that you are operating from home.
“As the law does not explicitly forbid employees to hold down a second job, employees who have more flexibility due to working from home or a low work load could possible do something else to augment their income,” says Tertius Wessels, advocate and legal director of Strata-g Labor Solutions.
“Employees often feel that a supplementary income does not violate the relationship with their employer, as there might be no conflict of interest, especially if there is no clear and correct policy in place regarding what is expected of an employee and freelancing,” explains Wessels.
Employers are not necessarily always in favour of an employee having other financial obligations outside the workplace. An employer might feel that the employee does not devote his full attention to the workplace or neglects his work.
However, according to Wessels, an employer may not forbid an employee from taking up an alternative source of income, especially if there is no obvious conflict of interests. “The onus rests on the employee to inform his or her employer that he or she is freelancing or running an enterprise outside the workplace, even without the service contract and/or work policy declaring it implicitly.”
Employees should refrain from taking up activities that have a negative influence on their performance at work or any conduct that puts the interest of the employee above that of the organisation.
“Employees who possess specific skills often feel they can apply these skills outside their workplace and soon they are busy asking individual clients money for the same services they offer their employer.” According to Wessels, this is a clear conflict of interests as the employer who appointed the employee permanently, did so to obtain the exclusive use of their skills and when those skills are no longer being used to promote the interest of the employer, a conflict ensues.
Even if the conflict of interests is quite vague, an employer can put it forward as a reason for dismissal. “The easiest way for employees to know if they are transgressing their work policy, is to ask themselves if their current conduct is in direct or indirect competition with their employer.” The other questions that an employee must ask him- or herself, is whether they are using their employer’s resources for their freelancing and whether it is distracting their attention from performing their function in their place of work.
“The best way to know if there is a conflict and avoiding it, it to declare to your employer what you are busy with, and if your employer says you may continue, there is no problem.”
According to Wessels, some employers will have no problem with your freelancing, while others will not allow it. “However, if you are honest with your employer, it may mean that no disciplinary action will be taken against you and it builds trust between employer and employee,” Wessels concludes.
Strata-g Labor Solutions: https://www.strata-g.co.za/