If You're Working 2 Jobs, Beware. Equifax May Tell Your Boss

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  • Equifax sacked 24 staff members after an investigation showed they were working two jobs.
  • Equifax's tool, The Work Number, can access almost 150 million work records.
  • If you've taken on extra work, make sure you know what your contract says and that you stay on top of your existing responsibilities.

Employers are finding new ways to crack down on side hustles.

More and more Americans are taking on second jobs these days as spiraling living costs have hammered their bank balances. Some have had to use their savings to cover everyday expenses, others have taken on debt, and still others are increasing their income by working more.

According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, almost 5% of workers hold more than one job. That percentage is much higher if you also factor in side hustles. Research from Zapier shows that 40% of people have some kind of extra work, though for many it equates to less than 10 hours per week. If you're one of them, and your boss doesn't know, a new tool from Equifax could land you in hot water.

Equifax sacks 24 staff members after widespread investigation

A report from Insider revealed that Equifax had investigated around 1,000 employees in an effort to crack down on staff holding second jobs. The agency laid off 24 employees following its investigation. It says its workers are not contractually allowed to take on extra work without authorization.

Equifax is one of the lead credit reporting agencies in the U.S., but that's not all it does. One of its products, called The Work Number, provides income and employment verification services. With more than 140 million active records, the company can access employment information for millions of Americans.

The Insider article says that Equifax used its The Work Number tool, along with other data, to uncover employees who were working two jobs. Other information included manager feedback, low login activity, and employee interviews. While Equifax says it followed all relevant laws, one person interviewed by Insider questioned the way it had used its data to "spy" on its staff.

How to hold down two jobs

One of the many consequences of the pandemic is that people's approach to work is changing. For example, the growth of remote working has made it more feasible to take on extra work. Not only do people save time on commuting each day, they also have more control over their schedules. Plus, there's less oversight when people are working from home.

At the same time, higher living costs have made it harder for people to make ends meet, increasing the appeal of finding another income stream. But the Equifax case shows that some employers are not happy about their workers moonlighting. Here are some core rules to minimize the impact of your extracurricular work.

1. Check your contract

Every company is different. In some industries, it's not unusual for people to take on extra work. Others allow it as long as you're not working for a competitor, or ask that you inform your line manager. Still others don't allow it at all. Bear in mind that there's a big difference between working two jobs and taking on a side hustle. Make sure you know what your contract and employee handbook say before you go too far down this road.

The ideal scenario is that you're able to be transparent about your extra work. If you can tell your company what you're doing, you'll waste less time worrying about what might happen if they find out. Research some of the benefits of side hustles and think about what advantages they may bring to your employer. For example, you may be learning new skills or feeling re-energized. If you're building a name for yourself on social media as an expert, some of that new fairy dust might brush off on your company.

2. Prioritize your main job

Be clear about what your commitment is to your main employment. Your employer can reasonably expect you to work a certain number of hours per week and do the job they are paying you to do. But, unless you're working for a competitor or selling company secrets, they don't have the right to tell you what to do in your free time.

Let's say you have an office job but you've started a side job selling smoothie packs from home. If your employer checks your work internet history and finds you're spending your work time ordering dates and cacao nibs, you could have a problem. But if you're meeting your deadlines, doing the work you're contracted to do, and not using office time to research the latest smoothie news, it may be a different story.

3. Avoid burnout

Doing two jobs can involve burning the candle at both ends and melting it a bit in the middle as well. You need to be extremely organized. Another challenge? Making time for yourself as well as your double work life. It can be easy to neglect exercise, healthy eating, and sleep when faced with competing deadlines. The trouble is that this can be counterproductive. You might keep the plates spinning for a few months, but if you don't look after yourself, you could burnout and find yourself unable to perform at one job, never mind two.

Bottom line

There's a lot of appeal to starting a side hustle, particularly if it translates to more money in your bank account. The trick is to manage it carefully so that it doesn't jeopardize your main job. Be aware that Equifax's new tool makes it easier for employers to uncover any work you're doing on the side. That makes it all the more important to know what you're contractually allowed to do and to keep on top of your main responsibilities at work.

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