Number of Australians with a ‘side hustle’ reaches record high


The number of multiple job holders in Australia has reached an all time high, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Why are so many Aussies picking up a side hustle – and do they pose any risks to organisations?

Have you ever thought about taking on a second job, or ‘side hustle’, to boost your income or pursue your personal interests outside of work? If you said ‘yes’, you’re not alone. 

In September, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that over 900,000 Australian workers – that’s 6.5 per cent of the workforce – held multiple jobs during the June quarter. This marks an increase of 4.6 per cent since the previous quarter, and is the highest recorded rate since the quarterly series began.

One of the biggest drivers of this increase cited by the ABS is that the number of available roles has skyrocketed as businesses wrestle with nationwide labour shortages. However, the ABS findings also revealed a record high in job vacancies – a 14.3 per cent jump since the last quarter, and more than double the rate than before the start of the pandemic – suggesting that employees’ skills aren’t aligning with the jobs available.

While pursuing a side hustle can bring myriad benefits to employees, both they and their employers must be aware of responsibilities around wellbeing, as well as legal considerations. 

HRM spoke with Dale Boccabella, Associate Professor at UNSW Business School, to unpack some of the most important factors at play.

Exploring new possibilities

Amid growing concern about the rising cost of living, it’s unsurprising that many Aussies are turning to second jobs as a source of extra income. But, this might not be the only factor behind the increasing popularity of side hustles, says Boccabella.

“People were in lockdown for quite a while. And it might be that people had an opportunity to think about the long term a bit more,” he says. “It gave them the opportunity to think, ‘Maybe I should try a different career path, or even try running a business on my own’. It gave them space to experiment.”

The increase in employees pursuing alternative forms of work to improve their work-life balance and job satisfaction may indicate a bigger change to come in the future of work. 

Career trajectories are more flexible and less linear than they once were, and more employees are seeing the benefits of ‘portfolio careers’, where they can cultivate a wide range of skills and experience and take on more project-based work, rather than committing to one single employer.

One of the key benefits of having a side hustle is the chance to diversify your skillset. Even if a company offers great learning and development opportunities, real-life experience in another industry gives employees more opportunities to add new skills to their arsenal. 

The prospect of pursuing their dream career might seem less daunting if they are able to dip their toe into the field via a side gig rather than diving in head first.

“Especially if you’re reasonably young, it’s about trying to expose yourself to how certain industries work. For example, you could get a part-time job in the hospitality industry, get to know how it works and learn whether there are career paths for you there. It’s all about experimentation.”

Upskilling in this way not only means employees expand their horizons externally, but can even result in them bringing fresh and relevant knowledge to their primary job.

Not only this, supporting employees who wish to start a side hustle could be a boon for retention – especially for the next generation of talent. 

Microsoft’s most recent Work Trends Index found that 63 per cent of millennials and 76 per cent of Gen Z aspire to be their own bosses and are more likely to stay with their current employer if they were given the opportunity to work flexibly and pursue a side project.

Managing employees with a side hustle

While a second income source might be a tantalising prospect for some employees, spending time on a side hustle inevitably means more time in work mode with less time for rest. 

Australians are already burned out. According to ELMO’s latest Employee Sentiment Index, 42 per cent of Australian workers have experienced some degree of burnout in the last quarter.

Employers can also be put in a difficult position if they begin to notice a dip in engagement as a result of the time and energy an employee devotes to a second job. 

“That’s often forgotten in this whole conversation,” says Boccabella. “There are potential conflicts of interest all over the place.

“When you have a full-time job, there are obligations on employees – they’re supposed to carry out the job with care, dedication, loyalty and diligence. If employees are turning up to their job dead tired because they’ve been working another 20 or 40 hours somewhere else, they may not actually be performing their first job properly.”

How much say do employers have?

If you’re concerned about employees burning the midnight oil on a side hustle, can you stop them from doing it? 

According to Boccabella, employers can only do this in certain situations where they are protecting themselves from a conflict of interest.

“If I was working for a chartered accounting firm, I would have thought there’d be a clause in my contract saying I couldn’t go and work part-time for [a competitor],” he says.

“If you put those situations aside, if there’s no express exclusion in your contract from working a second job, and there’s no implied exclusion based on conflict of interest, it would generally be okay.”

If you choose to include these specific clauses in employment contracts, Boccabella says employers must have a concrete reason to do so and clearly communicate that to employees.

“The restriction has got to be related to the interests of the employer… [for the same reason] you can’t say to an employee, ‘You can’t go and play football on the weekend.’” 

“If employees are turning up to their job dead tired because they’ve been working another 20 or 40 hours somewhere else, they may not actually be performing their first job properly.” – Dale Boccabella, Associate Professor, UNSW Business School

If the demands of a second job have begun to visibly impact performance and employers are considering dismissal, it’s crucial they go through the appropriate channels to do so, to avoid the possibility of unfair dismissal. In this instance, you wouldn’t be putting someone through a performance management process because they have a side hustle, but because their performance has slipped. These two things need to be treated separately.

“You’ve got give warnings before you dismiss someone. You’ve got to bring it to the attention of the employee and give them the opportunity to correct their behaviour,” says Boccabella.

“In fact, that was one of the problems with the Diego Franco case. [The employer] didn’t give him much of a chance. Franco had to have a chance to respond to his so-called performance lapses.

“Your rights as an employer to dismiss someone are governed by the employment contract, but it’s important to go through the formal process before you go down the dismissal route.”

The time and energy you devote to a side hustle might add more hours to your week, but for many employees that commitment can pay back in spades.

While it’s crucial that employers take appropriate action when side hustles interfere with wellbeing and performance, supporting employees as they pursue their passions can help to create a greater sense of fulfilment and engagement at work, and help you to hold onto your best and brightest talent.

How do you feel about employees taking on side hustles? Let us know in the comment section.


Need help ensuring that your policies are compliant and up-to-date? AHRI’s short course unpacks key aspects of employment law in Australia that HR practitioners need to be aware of in their practice.


 

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John Hartigan
John Hartigan
1 year ago

This article is only giving one side of a more complex scenario that can arise. A number of young & older independently focussed are more interested in being a “freelancer “ or Gig worker especially in the area of professional services. With advanced digital & applied research skills the freelance “gig” worker can work from home , Zoom in , travel & earn a good living doing “assignments” ; this form of “side hustle” can be a way of life & academics/ bureaucrats/ unions seem slow to catch on ! Cheers John H

Sue Ellson
Sue Ellson
1 year ago

It is fantastic to see some statistics backing up the change in work styles as technology affects every component of work and careers. I haven’t had a real job since 1994, so although I am not a millennial or a Generation Z person, (Gen X in fact), I can tell you that the variety I enjoy keeps me interested, relevant and in work, despite the ups and downs of the economy. That said, it is not for everyone at every stage in their life, so please be mindful before recommending this strategy and remember that wealth management is vital for… Read more »

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Number of Australians with a ‘side hustle’ reaches record high


The number of multiple job holders in Australia has reached an all time high, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Why are so many Aussies picking up a side hustle – and do they pose any risks to organisations?

Have you ever thought about taking on a second job, or ‘side hustle’, to boost your income or pursue your personal interests outside of work? If you said ‘yes’, you’re not alone. 

In September, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that over 900,000 Australian workers – that’s 6.5 per cent of the workforce – held multiple jobs during the June quarter. This marks an increase of 4.6 per cent since the previous quarter, and is the highest recorded rate since the quarterly series began.

One of the biggest drivers of this increase cited by the ABS is that the number of available roles has skyrocketed as businesses wrestle with nationwide labour shortages. However, the ABS findings also revealed a record high in job vacancies – a 14.3 per cent jump since the last quarter, and more than double the rate than before the start of the pandemic – suggesting that employees’ skills aren’t aligning with the jobs available.

While pursuing a side hustle can bring myriad benefits to employees, both they and their employers must be aware of responsibilities around wellbeing, as well as legal considerations. 

HRM spoke with Dale Boccabella, Associate Professor at UNSW Business School, to unpack some of the most important factors at play.

Exploring new possibilities

Amid growing concern about the rising cost of living, it’s unsurprising that many Aussies are turning to second jobs as a source of extra income. But, this might not be the only factor behind the increasing popularity of side hustles, says Boccabella.

“People were in lockdown for quite a while. And it might be that people had an opportunity to think about the long term a bit more,” he says. “It gave them the opportunity to think, ‘Maybe I should try a different career path, or even try running a business on my own’. It gave them space to experiment.”

The increase in employees pursuing alternative forms of work to improve their work-life balance and job satisfaction may indicate a bigger change to come in the future of work. 

Career trajectories are more flexible and less linear than they once were, and more employees are seeing the benefits of ‘portfolio careers’, where they can cultivate a wide range of skills and experience and take on more project-based work, rather than committing to one single employer.

One of the key benefits of having a side hustle is the chance to diversify your skillset. Even if a company offers great learning and development opportunities, real-life experience in another industry gives employees more opportunities to add new skills to their arsenal. 

The prospect of pursuing their dream career might seem less daunting if they are able to dip their toe into the field via a side gig rather than diving in head first.

“Especially if you’re reasonably young, it’s about trying to expose yourself to how certain industries work. For example, you could get a part-time job in the hospitality industry, get to know how it works and learn whether there are career paths for you there. It’s all about experimentation.”

Upskilling in this way not only means employees expand their horizons externally, but can even result in them bringing fresh and relevant knowledge to their primary job.

Not only this, supporting employees who wish to start a side hustle could be a boon for retention – especially for the next generation of talent. 

Microsoft’s most recent Work Trends Index found that 63 per cent of millennials and 76 per cent of Gen Z aspire to be their own bosses and are more likely to stay with their current employer if they were given the opportunity to work flexibly and pursue a side project.

Managing employees with a side hustle

While a second income source might be a tantalising prospect for some employees, spending time on a side hustle inevitably means more time in work mode with less time for rest. 

Australians are already burned out. According to ELMO’s latest Employee Sentiment Index, 42 per cent of Australian workers have experienced some degree of burnout in the last quarter.

Employers can also be put in a difficult position if they begin to notice a dip in engagement as a result of the time and energy an employee devotes to a second job. 

“That’s often forgotten in this whole conversation,” says Boccabella. “There are potential conflicts of interest all over the place.

“When you have a full-time job, there are obligations on employees – they’re supposed to carry out the job with care, dedication, loyalty and diligence. If employees are turning up to their job dead tired because they’ve been working another 20 or 40 hours somewhere else, they may not actually be performing their first job properly.”

How much say do employers have?

If you’re concerned about employees burning the midnight oil on a side hustle, can you stop them from doing it? 

According to Boccabella, employers can only do this in certain situations where they are protecting themselves from a conflict of interest.

“If I was working for a chartered accounting firm, I would have thought there’d be a clause in my contract saying I couldn’t go and work part-time for [a competitor],” he says.

“If you put those situations aside, if there’s no express exclusion in your contract from working a second job, and there’s no implied exclusion based on conflict of interest, it would generally be okay.”

If you choose to include these specific clauses in employment contracts, Boccabella says employers must have a concrete reason to do so and clearly communicate that to employees.

“The restriction has got to be related to the interests of the employer… [for the same reason] you can’t say to an employee, ‘You can’t go and play football on the weekend.’” 

“If employees are turning up to their job dead tired because they’ve been working another 20 or 40 hours somewhere else, they may not actually be performing their first job properly.” – Dale Boccabella, Associate Professor, UNSW Business School

If the demands of a second job have begun to visibly impact performance and employers are considering dismissal, it’s crucial they go through the appropriate channels to do so, to avoid the possibility of unfair dismissal. In this instance, you wouldn’t be putting someone through a performance management process because they have a side hustle, but because their performance has slipped. These two things need to be treated separately.

“You’ve got give warnings before you dismiss someone. You’ve got to bring it to the attention of the employee and give them the opportunity to correct their behaviour,” says Boccabella.

“In fact, that was one of the problems with the Diego Franco case. [The employer] didn’t give him much of a chance. Franco had to have a chance to respond to his so-called performance lapses.

“Your rights as an employer to dismiss someone are governed by the employment contract, but it’s important to go through the formal process before you go down the dismissal route.”

The time and energy you devote to a side hustle might add more hours to your week, but for many employees that commitment can pay back in spades.

While it’s crucial that employers take appropriate action when side hustles interfere with wellbeing and performance, supporting employees as they pursue their passions can help to create a greater sense of fulfilment and engagement at work, and help you to hold onto your best and brightest talent.

How do you feel about employees taking on side hustles? Let us know in the comment section.


Need help ensuring that your policies are compliant and up-to-date? AHRI’s short course unpacks key aspects of employment law in Australia that HR practitioners need to be aware of in their practice.


 

Subscribe to receive comments
Notify me of
guest

2 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Hartigan
John Hartigan
1 year ago

This article is only giving one side of a more complex scenario that can arise. A number of young & older independently focussed are more interested in being a “freelancer “ or Gig worker especially in the area of professional services. With advanced digital & applied research skills the freelance “gig” worker can work from home , Zoom in , travel & earn a good living doing “assignments” ; this form of “side hustle” can be a way of life & academics/ bureaucrats/ unions seem slow to catch on ! Cheers John H

Sue Ellson
Sue Ellson
1 year ago

It is fantastic to see some statistics backing up the change in work styles as technology affects every component of work and careers. I haven’t had a real job since 1994, so although I am not a millennial or a Generation Z person, (Gen X in fact), I can tell you that the variety I enjoy keeps me interested, relevant and in work, despite the ups and downs of the economy. That said, it is not for everyone at every stage in their life, so please be mindful before recommending this strategy and remember that wealth management is vital for… Read more »

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