In today’s dynamic work landscape, the rise of ‘side hustles’ has become a noteworthy trend, with 44% of the British population opting for additional income streams, according to recent findings by Finder. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced among younger generations, with 76% of Gen Z engaging in side hustles. While employees bear the responsibility of ensuring that their side pursuits don’t interfere with their primary job, employers also play a pivotal role in maintaining a harmonious equilibrium between professional commitments and personal aspirations.

Beyond the 9-to-5

The concept of side hustles encompasses a spectrum of secondary income sources, ranging from part-time gigs during weekends to embarking on personal passions, such as artistic pursuits or starting a small business. Among the array of side hustle options, selling unwanted items online, part-time secondary jobs, and social media influencing stand out as the most common choices among British adults.

What happens if a ‘Side Hustle’ Clashes with a Main Job?

Ordinarily, employees are not obligated to inform their employers about secondary income streams. The need arises only when a side hustle begins to hinder their primary job’s quality or becomes a disruptive force. This dynamic becomes more complex as hybrid and flexible work arrangements become the norm, raising concerns about when employees are allocating time to their side ventures.

How to Navigate Conversations and Set Boundaries

Conversations between employers and employees in such situations can be influenced by various factors. For instance, physically demanding roles or mentally taxing jobs combined with additional shifts might compromise an employee’s overall well-being and performance. On the other hand, side businesses that operate independently from the primary job might require less intervention.

Employment contracts also play a role. Senior employees, for example, might have clauses prohibiting additional work or competitive activities. Navigating these nuances requires employers to approach discussions with sensitivity, seeking to understand the rationale behind each individual’s side pursuit.

Should it happen that an employee’s side line directly competes with the employer’s business or is pursued during contracted working hours, disciplinary proceedings can be initiated, potentially leading to dismissal. However, this demands a cautious approach. If the side hustle was necessitated by a perceived low salary, revisiting pay practices and enhancing employee support systems can mitigate the need for additional income sources, but proceed with caution as mishandling the situation could damage your reputation.

Legal Limits

In addition, employers must also stay mindful of working time regulations, as employees are not allowed to surpass a 48-hour average working week. If an employee’s side hustle threatens to breach these limits, employers might propose opt-out agreements to protect themselves from future claims. If the employee declines, adjusting working hours becomes a viable solution.

Communication is key

By initiating open dialogues surrounding side hustles and conducting sensitive investigations when warranted, employers can confidently coexist with employees’ secondary income endeavours without compromising day-to-day work. The key lies in understanding the motives behind these pursuits, fostering an environment of transparency, and ensuring that both professional commitments and personal aspirations find a harmonious balance.


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Published: 29th August 2023
Area: Employment

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Nick has over 25 years experience of working in Bristol as a specialist employment lawyer, dealing with all aspects of employment law. Whilst he predominantly acts for business owners, employers and senior executives he also assists employees with the difficult issues that they can face in their employment. He has extensive experience of advising employers on the strategic employment law issues affecting their businesses, including TUPE, redundancy, collective consultation, executive severance and HR support.

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