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IT firms are worried that employees taking up a secondary job after regular work hours will affect productivity, lead to conflicts of interest, and cause possible data breaches (image for representation purpose only)

Moonlighting a question of ethics, not legalities: Wipro CEO

Wipro CEO Thierry Delaporte said on Wednesday that while little side jobs were fine, working for a competitor was a “question of ethics.” Delaporte’s statement came weeks after the IT giant fired 300 employees for moonlighting, on a day when its Q2 performance figures revealed a YoY dip in net profit.

Record-high attrition rates have added to the woes of the Indian IT industry, with companies facing cost overloads and margin pressures. But Wipro has reported a marginal dip in its attrition rate, and said it would award 85 per cent of the staff with 100 per cent variable pay.

Last month, Wipro chairman Rishad Premji revealed that around 300 employees were fired for working directly for rivals. On Wednesday, at the second-quarter earnings press conference, Delaporte said Wipro contracts stipulate not taking up a side job with a competitor.

Also read: Q2 profit: Wipro sees 9.3% drop YoY, HCL Tech posts 7% increase

Employees signing up for the company are expected “not only to dedicate time for Wipro but also keep time for themselves and for families,” he said. It was “perfectly fine with someone having a little side job here and there. It is different if you are working for a company that is in our environment (business), for example,” he said.

“Conflict of interest”

Delaporte added that working for rivals was also a conflict of interest. “So, it (moonlighting) is not a question of (legalities); it is a question of ethics. We don’t believe that it is right to have two jobs having a conflict of interest,” he explained while responding to a question on whether moonlighting was legal.

However, he was quick to add that Wipro respected the choice of other companies if they did not have any problem with moonlighting. “But also, we are not doing anything new or different. It is clear to our people when joining Wipro,” he said.

Also read: How did Wipro nab 300 moonlighters? PF may have given them away

IT firms are worried that employees taking up a secondary job after regular work hours will affect productivity, lead to conflicts of interest, and cause possible data breaches. Premji has been a vocal critic of the practice and has equated it to “cheating” in the recent past.

“When I talk of ethics, I talk about conflict of interest,” Delaporte clarified. “Conflict of interest means being in a position where you no longer know if your interests are not mixed. That is an important point.”

“So, hear me, I am not talking about things illegal. I am not talking about side jobs. I am really talking about being in an obvious situation of conflict of interest. I think that our employees understand that,” he said.

Manpower shortage

His views echo that of India’s largest IT services exporter TCS, which also termed moonlighting as an “ethical issue” earlier this week. However, TCS, which employs over 6.16 lakh people, has not taken action against anyone so far.

Also read: Citing poor output, Wipro stops variable pay for senior, mid-level staff

“Moonlighting, we believe, is an ethical issue, and it is against our core values and culture,” TCS chief human resources officer Milind Lakkad said on October 10.

Over the past few months, the IT industry has been faced with a manpower shortage, triggered by a high demand for services following the greater adoption of digitalisation following the pandemic. While some companies, like Tech Mahindra, have supported the idea of side hustles, others, like IBM, have flagged concerns about it.

Wipro cuts attrition rate

Wipro on Wednesday said it had hired 14,000 freshers in the first six months of the 2022-23 fiscal, with a net headcount increase of 605 for the July-September quarter. The total number of employees at the end of the quarter stood at 259,179. Incidentally, it has been one of the top companies where campus hires have been facing delays in onboarding.

Also read: Business analysis: Govt asks PSBs to start hiring; IT firms seek legal help on moonlighting

The attrition rate marginally dropped to 23 per cent in the September quarter from 23.3 per cent in the preceding quarter. “During the quarter, we followed a strategy focussing on hiring freshers, and we will continue to follow this strategy over the next quarter,” Delaporte said.

Wipro also rolled out salary hikes and promoted 10,000 employees during the quarter.

HCL Tech has reported a net addition of 8,359 during the quarter, taking its total headcount to 219,325. TCS has reported a net addition of 9,840 employees and said that it plans to onboard around 10,000 to 12,000 in the rest of the fiscal.

(With agency inputs)

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