Can My Employer Stop Me From Having a Second Job?

In recent times, many people have taken on extra work to help pay the bills. It’s never been easier to work from home and there are many options available. Some workplaces aren’t keen on side gigs, and your employer may try to stop you from having a second job. Can they really do this?

The rather frustrating answer is “it depends”. Your employer may have a clause in your contract which says you can’t have another job outside your main role. They might also require you to discuss any additional roles with them. If you don’t do so, then it may be possible to get fired for having a second job.

It’s also important to understand the implications of having two jobs. You need to make sure you aren’t in breach of any employment laws that may affect your employers.

Can You Work Two Jobs?

Lots of people have second jobs in the UK labour market. It’s increasingly common for workers to have a side gig in an attempt to boost income.

1.2 Million people have a second income in the UK

Feb-April 2022 survey by ONS – UK Workers with second jobs. This graph is updated quarterly and shows a rapid increase since June 2020.

This trend is for many reasons ranging from wanting to fund hobbies to not getting enough money from one job. Many employers favour part time or casual employment on zero hour contracts. This means staff often aren’t enough to get by and need a second job.

The Legal Implications of Working Two Jobs

There’s no direct law in the UK that says you can’t have two jobs working for different employers. However, there are some laws which may indirectly cause you problems.

If your employer looks unfavourably on second jobs, it may be down to concerns over conflict of interest. But there also some regulations that could cause them problems because of their duty of care to your overall welfare.

There are potential legal implications of working two jobs which you might not be aware of.

Working Time Regulations

Working Time Regulations limit the number of hours (on average) that can be worked per week to 48 hours.

This is averaged out over 17 weeks and this cannot be exceeded unless:

  1. You choose to opt-out of this and are happy to do more hours. This will need to be signed and agreed to in your contract of employment(s). You may also be given an opt-out agreement to read and sign.
  2. Your job is not affected by the 48-hour rule such as a medical profession or military base.

The 48 hour a week limit on working hours is counted over all your employment. It is your employer’s responsibility to make sure your hours don’t breach the working time regulations. This is one reason why many employers will have a contractual clause requiring you to report second jobs to them.

Your employer is legally obliged to make enquiries to find out if your total hours worked exceed those laid out in the Working Time Directive. If you are working in excess of 48 hours a week, you must sign an opt out agreement.

Employer’s Duty Of Care

Fatigued workers may cause a health and safety risk within your work environment. If this is the case, your employer has a duty of care to remove that risk.

This means if your employer deems you being fatigued is a risk to the safety of yourself, or others at work, they must take steps to remove the risk.

In this scenario you might find your employer asks you to reduce hours at your other role. They may also ask you to stop working extra hours. It may be reasonable for an employer to fire you for having a second job if being fatigued is affecting workplace health and safety.

Contractual Issues

Some employers will have terms in their employment contracts that second jobs are not permitted. This may be for legal reasons like those we’ve already discussed. It may also be to protect your employer’s interests and prevent conflicts of interest.

The obligation to disclose other employment will be set out within your contract and failure to comply may result in disciplinary action.

Employers will often have clauses in your contract to the following effect:

  • Ensuring you are aware and staying within the working time regulations unless you have opted out.
  • Being aware that if the second job impacts ability to perform your job role then you may face disciplinary action.
  • It’s common practice for companies to disallow their staff from working for a rival company.
  • It is also common for employers to require that any other work does not give their business or company a bad reputation.

If your employer gives you written permission to take up a second job, it is something they can withdraw.

Withdrawing their permission might happen if they feel your work for them is suffering. This can include poor performance, missing deadlines, seeming fatigued, and calling in sick more frequently.

The above considerations mean that there are some scenarios where an employer can stop you having a second job. If there are clauses in your work contract prohibiting it, they may also be able to dismiss you.

Income Tax & Second Jobs

Another consideration to pay heed to is the issue of income tax regarding second jobs. This is a very complex matter so we are going to break it down into easily digestible snippets.

  • Although you won’t pay more tax on a second income, the amount you pay overall increases as the two totals are taken into consideration.
  • When you are taxed, one job will be considered primary, the other secondary. You can apply Personal Allowance to the primary job or the one where you earn the most.
  • The Personal Tax Allowance is currently set at £12,570 per year. This means anything you earn over this amount is taxable.
  • If neither income is above the Personal Allowance income then you can instead, split it between the two jobs.
  • Let’s say that in one job you earned £16,000 and in your second job you earned £4,000. This would mean you would pay 20% income tax on the remaining £3,430 of the first job and then 20% of the total amount from the second income of £4,000. This is based on regulations in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Having a second job can be a great way to acquire new skills, broaden your experiences and make some extra money.

However, you must also make sure that your income tax is properly administered.

Being off Sick From One Job Whilst Working in Another

What happens if you are signed off sick from one job? Can you work another job on sick leave?

This can be a tricky situation to navigate with an employer. However, there are some situations where it would be acceptable in employment law terms to do this.

Let’s use back pain as our example: you’ve been advised by the Doctor to avoid physical exertion but your job as a postman means driving, lifting, bending, and of course, walking thousands of steps each day. However, your second job as a software tester is done remotely from home and in an office, so this could continue.

In the above scenario, it would be acceptable. However, this type of situation does have the potential to cause you problems at work.

Could You Be Fired for Having a Second Job?

Whether or not you could be sacked for having a second job will ultimately come down to your contract. If the job you have taken is in breach of its terms then you may have a problem.

If your other work presents a health and safety risk as discussed previously, your employer may be able to fire you even if your contract doesn’t forbid second jobs.

Even if there is nothing in your contract in this situation it is always best to be upfront and honest. Sometimes, even if the company does have a blanket ban on second jobs, it is still worth having the conversation.

You haven’t got anything to lose and if it is about extra income maybe they will find you some more hours rather than risking letting you go.

Top Tips For Broaching Your Employer About That Second Job

  • Even if the contract says no, it is still worth asking your employer as they may well agree.
  • Be upfront and honest about needing an extra income, they will appreciate being kept in the loop.
  • Assure your boss that your additional job will not impact your current one negatively. Maybe even quite the opposite – sometimes these changes can give us a new lease on life.
  • Explain your new venture so that your boss understands it will in no way cause any bad reputation for the company.
  • Arrange a time to meet with your boss rather than springing it on them. This will give you to prepare what to say and preempt any questions they may have.
  • Make it clear that the two jobs will never cause a conflict of interests and you will still be as reliable as you are now.
  • If it is a condition of your contract to ask permission for taking on an additional job then it is best to have this in writing as well as a face-to-face chat.

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