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The companies fear that widespread moonlighting may leak trade secrets to rivals.

India’s IT outsourcers have started cracking down on moonlighting among workers out of fear that staff will share corporate secrets with rivals, according to a report in the Financial Times.

Many outsourcers, which work for global businesses such as Microsoft, AstraZeneca and Vanguard, raised concerns about employees with multiple employers during their latest quarterly earnings calls. These worries have led to a growing number of businesses offering intermittent background checks on employees to identify moonlighting.

The biggest warning has come from Wipro. Chair Rishad Premji claimed last month that the outsourcer had dismissed 300 workers who were caught moonlighting in a single move. Premji has called moonlighting “cheating — plain and simple”, even though it’s not illegal.

Tata Consultancy Services called the practice an “ethical issue” earlier this month. Infosys had said it would allow workers to take second jobs under some conditions while chief executive Salil Parekh confirmed during an investor call that the company had recently fired staff found to be moonlighting.

High skills and low wages drive the moonlighting trend

Low wages and strong technical expertise have made India a chosen outsourcing destination for international companies. Meanwhile, India’s IT firms, key drivers of the country’s economy, are struggling to retain their workers’ loyalty for the same reasons.

Workers have said that prolonged periods of downtime during shifts, the availability of casual work and difficulty making ends meet as the cost of living rises have made moonlighting an obvious choice for employees in many sectors.

“At Covid time, I became the primary earner for my family”, said Dev, not his real name, who works in the IT department at a multinational bank while simultaneously holding down another job at a foreign start-up. “[The second job] allowed me to take care of myself and help my family with some additional salary.”

Dev said that poor treatment of workers and the lack of significant recent pay rises would only increase moonlighting. “Big tech thinks we are slaves to them”, he said.