REUTERS | A woman runs through Victoria Park at sunrise in Leicester, central England, December 30, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples (BRITAIN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR4JLUZ

Employment law and the cost of living crisis

There is no denying that the UK is submerged in a cost of living crisis, with Shelter reporting an increase of 45% (since April 2022) in renters being behind with, or consistently struggling to pay, their rent (an increase to almost 2.5 million renters). It is no surprise that many are turning to second (and even third) jobs to try and increase their income.  

Getting another income stream in itself may cause potential issues in terms of time (and lack of it for family and your loved ones) and increased tiredness, as well as the lack of any work-life balance, but some may see no other option than to take on another job. 

However, further problems may occur when your new income stream impacts your existing job, and not just because of your tiredness and lack of energy. 

Could your new income stream, taken on to help keep your head above water, actually put you in jeopardy of losing your main income? 

Possible implications of taking additional jobs 

As an employee, you will have both express and implied terms within your contract of employment that, if breached, could bring your employment to an immediate end and, in some cases, mean that you have to pay your employer. 

Implied terms include a duty of fidelity (as established in Faccenda Chicken Ltd v Fowler [1986] 3 WLR 288) which, in basic terms, means that the employee must act in good faith and not compete with their employer.  

It would make sense for you to take on another job in your skill set and in a similar industry to your main role, not least because you can capitalise on your expertise and experience. However, this could quite easily mean that you are competing with your existing employer and are therefore at risk of being dismissed for a breach of your contract. 

This implied term does go further, but here I have highlighted the ways in which it could be breached (maybe even innocently) by taking up a second job. 

Express terms are likely to be more obvious and employees should be more aware of them as they will be stated in their contract. 

I discuss below some of the most common express terms of an employment contract that may cause issues when taking on a second role, but the main one to look out for has to be an express clause stating that the employee cannot work for anyone else while employed by the employer (usually without their consent or approval). This is a common clause within employment contracts. This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how quickly you forget all the clauses you sign up to once you are in a job. How many of us actually go back and review our employment contracts regularly? 

Employment contracts, especially those for more senior roles, may also include a clause that states the employee must devote the whole of their time, attention and abilities to the business. Working for another employer, even if it is not a competing business, could breach this clause. If you are working for someone else, can you really be devoting your whole time and attention to your main employer? 

For some roles, employees may also have restrictive covenants (also known as post-termination restrictions) and these will restrict what they are able to do both during their employment and after their employment ends. These are likely to include clauses that prevent the employee from poaching staff and clients from their employer, but could cause the employee problems if they take on a second role that means they are dealing with their main employer’s clients or customers and suppliers, as these are likely to be protected by the restrictive covenants. A breach of these covenants can be very costly, both in defending any legal action and injunction but also in damages. This could lead to the employee losing their second job (through an injunction) as well as their main job and lead to them paying damages and legal fees (something that may be impossible when the very reason they have taken the second job is to help their financial situation). 

Ultimately, taking on that additional income may not be all that simple and could cause you to lose your main income and worsen your financial circumstances. 

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