A small government linked data tip-off has ripped techies off the secrecy cover concealing the moonlighting tales across the Indian IT sector. Data experts believe that the recent sacking of 300 Wipro techies over alleged moonlighting was majorly caused following a data analysis of Employees Provident Fund accounts (EPF) that are maintained under the Universal Account Number (UAN).
“In most of the cases companies while accessing employees’ UAN, a 12-digit, unique number assigned to an employee in the organised sector, found that two simultaneous PF contributions were active during the same period in different IT firms,” a technology expert in a an Indian IT major requesting anonymity told ETGovernment.
While initially a close check was maintained on such accounts, the alarm came early this year when technology companies witnessed several internal cases of data misappropriation. The tracking down of employees with dual PF contributions is however, just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ rather than a data breach.
According to labour law expert Pratichi Chaturvedi, two simultaneous active PF contributions from two different companies is not considered illegal albeit the difference in tax liability is paid off. Also tracking down the active PF accounts via UAN number also cannot be referred to as data breach as the companies seek this information from employees at the time of joining to link the employees post retirement benefits through PF contributions.
Industry experts believe that the tracking down of entry level techies involved in moonlighting through UAN is relatively a smaller worry for the IT company against the senior level techies, who are exposed to critical data, who pick the private assignments on a consulting basis. While the former set of employees who kept working in two IT firms as full-time employees can be tracked down from UAN data the latter remains untraceable.
Moonlighting is the practice where an individual takes up a second job while being on the payroll of a company. ‘Moon’ is used because most people do their primary job in the daytime and work on ‘other’ assignments at night.
Already battling the global economic woes, Indian IT companies have started deploying new age technology to track devices allotted to employees solely for office work. Not just this, the IT companies have engaged new third party companies for background checks of new recruits. In a recent similar case IT major Accenture is reported to have revoked an offer letter issued to a new joinee following a background check update indicating that the new recruit had simultaneously worked for two companies in the past. This was found while tracking the PF contribution history of the new recruit via UAN number.
Apart from this the IT companies have now started asking its employees to start work from office at least thrice a week. Wipro in a recent advisory has asked its Indian employees to start work from office at least thrice a week starting October 10. According to the note shared, the company said the office will not be open on Wednesdays except for employees who work on critical work.
Another Indian tech company Tata Consultancy Services has also advised 85% of its employees to return to officer at least thrice a week.
Many believe that the recent sacking of 300 employees over moonlighting is more of a ‘sending a signal’ than successfully tracking down all such instances. While sacking the start-level employees might be easy, the situation might get grimmer over plugging the ‘ethical breach’ from senior level techies. While letting go the start-level employees might be easy, retaining the senior level tech talent remains vital for these companies.
Infosys in a recent mail to its employee emphasised that dual employment was not permitted, and warned that any violation of contract clauses will trigger disciplinary action “which could even lead to termination of employment”. “No two-timing – no moonlighting!” Infosys, India’s second-largest IT services company, said in a mail to employees.
Last month while sacking its employees, Wipro’s Rishad Premji said that playing in a band over the weekend is different from secretly working for rivals. The chairman described moonlighting as ‘cheating, plain and simple’ and said that he was not deterred by hate mails he has been receiving over his tweet.
Wipro, in its latest statement, said that “certain employees found to be operating in circumstances that are in direct conflict with Wipro’s interests have been terminated.”