Updated for 2014.

There has undeniably been a huge increase, across all professions, of people taking second jobs or finding an extra source of income by ‘moonlighting’ (often on a freelance or casual basis) in a role that may or may not be related to their main job – usually because they need the extra income but sometimes to ‘feed’ other interests that their main job doesn’t fulfil.

Research from The Independent this summer found that almost 100,000 more people have had to take second jobs in the past year, taking the total number to 1.1 million in the first quarter of this year – the highest total since 2002.  The number of hours worked in second jobs has also gone up, to an average of just under 10 a week.

The Independent’s research also found that many companies are happy to take on people working relatively short hours to help meet their business needs, rather than having to take on a more expensive full-time or part-time employee.

Getting a second job can be a great (or necessary) thing to do, and while it’s not illegal to have a second job, there are several issues you need to consider, to avoid jeopardising your main source of income.

Working Time Regulations

This applies to employees and workers (including freelancers who are classed as workers).

For more information, see our full Guide to the Working Time Regulations.

The law states you may only work a certain number of hours each week (an average of 48 hours per week), although you can choose to Opt Out of this working hours limit if you want to. If you will be working over 48 hours per week because of a second job then your Employers should ask you to sign an Opt Out agreement and they should monitor the hours you work in a week.

If they feel that the long hours you work has an effect on your ability to do your main job (you arrive late, or tired and possibly more at risk of having an accident, leave early, aren’t working productively, have more sickness absence and so on) they may speak to you regarding your performance.

Contractual requirements

This will apply mostly to employees (it would be very unusual for a freelance contract to contain the clauses that we explain below).

Although you may think you can do what you like outside of your normal working hours this is not necessarily the case!

While employees do not have a legal obligation to disclose any other employment to their Employers, many Employers will restrict you working elsewhere via a clause in your contract of employment.  Such clauses are likely to exist to prevent you:

  • Doing anything that could cause a potential conflict of interest for your Employer (i.e. you work for a competitor / rival company or work for a company that is a client or supplier of your Employer)
  • Doing anything that could bring your Employer into disrepute (for example you have a job as a lap dancer while during the day you’re something more official!)
  • Being in breach of the Working Time Regulations (see above).

However, with or without these clauses, you will usually be required to obtain written permission from your Employer before you engage in any other type of paid or unpaid work outside of your normal working hours. Often this clause will also state that any failure on your part to declare any such activities may make you subject to disciplinary proceedings.

In addition the clause may state that the Employer can withdraw their permission if your work starts to suffer in any way (see above) where there is no other explanation for this. This clause, if it exists in your contract, is binding on you, i.e. you must follow it otherwise you will be in breach of contract. If this happens you may give your Employer grounds to make an application for an injunction to prevent the continuing breach or give your Employer grounds to dismiss you fairly if you refuse to give up the other work.

If you’d like to read more see our full article on contracts and terms and conditions.

Therefore be open with your employer about your other life; they may see it as a good way for you to develop other skills and keep you motivated, and have no problem with your second job at all.

If your Employer believes you are working for another business during your working time with this (and perhaps using their equipment and resources to do so) this could have serious consequences.  Most contracts will have an express clauses requiring you the employee to devote your whole time and attention to the Employers business during your normal working hours.  Your Employer is likely to instigate disciplinary action in these circumstances.  If such an express term does not exist in the contract then the employee is still likely to be in breach of the implied duty of fidelity (duty of good faith).

Moonlighting while on long-term sick leave

It is common that employees on long-term sick leave try to supplement their sick pay with additional income from another job.  Employer’s may naturally assume they can discipline or dismiss an employee who does this on the basis of the employees dishonesty.  However, your Employer will need to determine whether, that while your illness may have a genuine effect on the job you do for them it may not prevent you from performing other, different, work.

Tax and benefit implications

The taxman will still want to take his share of your pay from your second job including National Insurance contributions, although there is no separate (or higher) tax rate for a second job.

If your second job is on a PAYE basis (whether you are employed directly or you are an agency worker) you won’t be able to give your 2nd Employer a P45 when you start your second job so you’ll need to fill in a P46. Your employers will see you’ve declared that you have another job, but you don’t have to tell them how much you’re earning.

Your yearly tax-free personal allowance (for the 2011-12 tax year this is £7,475 if you are under 65 years old) will usually only be used against your main job and tax will be deducted accordingly, although you can ask HMRC to split the allowance between jobs. You will get a tax code for each job and it’s usual to have a BR (basic rate) tax code for your second job.

It’s important to check that the right tax code is being used for each, so have a look at your payslips if you have multiple tax codes, or think you are paying too much tax, and contact the HMRC to check you understand what’s going on and that you are being taxed correctly. You’ll probably remember the problems earlier this year with tax coding errors for those with multiple jobs! You may also find you may have to fill in an annual self-assessment tax return.

Those receiving child tax credits or working tax credits should also consider their situation carefully before taking on a second job. Tax credits are calculated on your estimated income at the start of the year and the extra income from a second job will reduce your future entitlement.

Also consider the tax earnings threshold – for the 2011-12 tax year, the earnings threshold for the 20% tax bracket is £35,000. If your total income is less than this, it will all attract income tax at a rate of 20% for this tax year. You also need to consider if the income from your second job will take you into the higher rate tax bracket too.

See the HMRC’s advice on tax codes for more than one job here.

If your second job is on a Freelance (non-PAYE) basis then you will need to tell the HMRC this, so your freelance income is accounted for and it is likely you will be asked to complete an annual self-assessment tax return.

If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues, or a Contractor/Freelancer/Employee with a complicated employment related problem, then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk  – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.

Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.

Photo by Raymond Bosma

  • gbay152

    What is defined as a ‘main’ job or a ‘second’ job? is it to do with hours worked or which job you had first or any other criteria?

    • Lesley Furber

      Hi, I’m pretty sure there is nothing official about this – it’s more likely to be the first job you had (in terms of calculating your total working hours).  Regards, Lesley, Workline

  • Elliot Miller

    Thanks Lesley for such an informative article. I am doing full time job, have been offered a part time job. My question is if I accept the part time job and fill P46 etc to fulfill its requirements, start getting salary from part time as well and ofcourse tax will be paid by both companies. Will my main employer be informed about my part time job by HMRC that I have joined in another job too ? or will they not know unless I tell them ?

    • lesleyfurber

      Hi Elliot, if your tax code changes then your main employer will be informed of this (although they may not know the reason). You might want to check with the HMRC if your tax code would be affected by the 2nd job. I would advise though it is always best to tell your Employer about a 2nd job – you may find that your contract with your main Employer requires that your tell your Employer if you have another job – it would be worth reading your contract to check this. Thanks for your kind words and good luck. Regards, Lesley, Workline