How to deal with secondary incomes

A Social Work Union Guide

Social workers are always thinking about what they will do if the job doesn’t work out and increasingly they are struggling to make ends meet. Seconds jobs are ever more common but it is always essential to tell your employer of any other work or any income-generating hobby that you have. Broadly, there are three reasons for this:

1. A European Working Time Directive says that unless you have opted out you can’t work more than 48 hours a week over a period of 17 weeks. That doesn’t necessarily mean contracted work. If you’re working in a bar one night a week and doing a six-hour shift that turns into eight, and you’re employed as a social worker 37 hours a week but end up doing 43 hours a week then you’ll be breaching the directive and your employer would get into trouble. Most employers are conscious of their duty of care to employees. It could be a paid job or a lucrative hobby. You may be an Ebay trader, perhaps a landlord of a property that you don’t live in; both could be seen as a second job. There can be a very broad interpretation of what counts as secondary employment.

2. In order to be registered by your country’s care council you must be of good character and physically and mentally fit to do all or part of the job of a social worker. A social worker was once struck off the register for working as a female escort. It was perfectly legal but the General Social Care Council felt it would bring the profession into disrepute. The issue about being physically and mentally fit is important. If you are working at a health trust and also doing emergency team work then it is likely to be too much for you to be effective. If you are working in a rough pub after a day at work then you would need to ask yourself if the hours are manageable and, perhaps, about the company you keep.

3. Intellectual property. If you have written a really useful book your employer may consider that it belongs to them. There are also issues around competition. If you work in a local authority fostering team and are doing form F assessments for an independent fostering agency then you could be seen to be in competition with your main employer. And there may also be concerns about breach of confidentiality, where your employer worries that you are telling another agency about its policies and ways of working.

At one time I was an agency social worker and I did sessional work for BASW. I worked for two local authorities during that time. One was fine with me working for BASW, the other was miffed because there were concerns that I could be giving employment advice to colleagues.

With a lucrative hobby, such as Ebay trading, you may feel pretty certain that your employer will never find out. But if you are using a work laptop, the chances are they will. Even if you are using a private computer at home there is still a chance your employer may find out. You are not as anonymous on the internet as you may think. Nothing is secretive. Social work is a pretty small profession and, sooner or later, news could get back to your employer. It would also be a problem if you were trading with clients.

You may consider that what you do outside of work is your own business. It isn’t. The last thing you want is to end up before a care council because you were unknowingly doing something that breaches the code of practice. So, stay on the side of caution and always inform your employer.

Real life examples:

Sandra Oteng was employed full-time by Sutton council, but was also doing three 12-hour shifts as a night-time care assistant for Croydon council. When she moved to Lewisham council, in south east London, she failed to inform her employer about her second job. She was admonished for five years by the GSCC. ‘There could have been a potential risk to vulnerable service users in light of the registrant’s commitment to extended working hours with two employers simultaneously,’ stated the conduct committee

Doccus Nyabunze was admonished for two years by the GSCC for having two jobs, one at Essex council and another at North Essex NHS Partnership Foundation Trust. ‘The registrant would suffer from fatigue, her day shift sometimes followed the night shift and this was not safe and responsible practice,’ the committee said.

Published : 2nd January 2012*

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* Although BASW has prepared the information contained within Social Work Knowledge with all due care and updates the information regularly, BASW does not warrant or represent that the information is free from errors or omission. Whilst the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information. The information may change without notice and BASW is not in any way liable for the accuracy of any information printed and stored or in any way interpreted and used by a user.