The rise of ‘polyjobbers’ in South Africa

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More South Africans are turning to moonlighting, side-hustles or holding down multiple jobs to ensure their financial security, the Old Mutual Savings & Investment Monitor 2022 shows.

The monitor shows that over half of working South Africans are turning to second income streams to extend their household budget – a trend which has grown over the last two years as many households were forced by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown to look for new revenue streams and access to finance.

The OMSIM tracks shifts in financial attitudes and behaviour of the country’s working population. For the report, the financial services company interviewed 1,505 respondents of various ages, personal income ranges, and genders.

A significant portion of the survey – 49% – still rely on a single income each month However, those pursuing second revenue streams – called ‘polyjobbers’ – have increased from 47% in 2021 to 51% in 2022, Old Mutual said.

There was a slight drop in people working two formal jobs (from 8% to 7%), and those working a side-business (20% to 19%), but there was a big jump in the number of people engaged in freelance or part-time contract work over and above their full-time jobs (29% to 33%).

Side-hustle culture in South Africa is also spread fairly evening across income groups, Old Mutual’s data shows – though older generations are more likely to be tied to the conventional single-income lifestyle.

Old Mutual said that its data indicates that, despite the turnaround from the pandemic, ‘polyjobbers’ are here to stay.

What the law says

As moonlighting and side-hustles take root in South African culture, legal experts have weighed in on the trend and given some recommendations for anyone looking to pursue a second line of income.

The key to this is knowing the difference between the different types of side-jobs, and how they may or may not conflict with your current employment obligations.

Striking a balance between the demands of a second line of employment, while maintaining deliverables in one’s primary 09h00-05h00 job, can result in blurred lines, said legal firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.

Moonlighting is when employees, during their own time (or even during employer time), and outside working hours of their primary employment, offer services to another employer for reward.

A side hustle is typically defined as additional work which a person is more passionate about than their full-time day job that supplements their income.

The legal firm said that it is important to know the distinction, and how they play with the contractual obligations between employer and employee.

“South African law does not explicitly preclude an employee from earning an additional income, and the general principle is that an employee cannot be unreasonably kept from supplementing their income.

“However, there are circumstances in which this may not be allowed, such as being expressly prohibited in terms of the employment contract, a workplace policy, and when it actually or potentially harms the primary employer’s business, or when it negatively impacts the persons capacity to work.”

To prevent uncertainties in the workplace, employers typically regulate this practice by expressly prohibiting a secondary occupation in employment contracts, workplace policies and/or collective agreements, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr said.

“This is mainly considered as best practice, and employers who do not have these forms of restrictions are advised to do so, especially in the existing economic climate.

“In addition, an employer may also limit the practice by providing that an employee must disclose the practice in advance and that it would be subject to the employer’s discretion for the employee to continue with their additional venture.”

If a prohibiting clause or workplace policy does not exist, an employee may have a secondary job provided that it does not contravene the standards of the primary employment relationship, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr said.

However, the firm stressed that the heart of the employment relationship is trust and confidence, and an employee is expected under the law to be honest, loyal and promote the business in the best interests of the employer.

Read: New legal case deals with moonlighting and side hustles in South Africa

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