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Home | Got a Minute | Career advice | No. 146 – I’m juggling two jobs in secret. Have I been unethical?

No. 146 – I’m juggling two jobs in secret. Have I been unethical?

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13 March 2024

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week: a tale of two jobs, a delayed contract and covering for a colleague on leave.

I have two jobs. The first (Job One) I’ve had for 20 years and is part-time from Friday to Sunday. The other (Job Two) is a full-time casual role from Monday to Thursday. Everything has been going well, but my bosses at Job Two are encouraging me to move to a permanent full-time role. I have never told them I work another job. Job One pays me just as much to work two long weekends a month as Job Two, so I don’t want to leave it. Can you hold two ongoing jobs? Have I been unethical?

I don’t think you are doing anything wrong. You are a casual which, by its nature, means you can have as many casual roles as you like. I think the discomfort you are feeling is not telling Job Two the truth about why you don’t want to move to full-time. You certainly don’t need to explain your reasons unless you want to. Remember there are many people in your situation who want to stay part-time for all sorts of personal reasons – it could be child-rearing, study, caring for older relatives, wanting to go to the beach and surf, who knows. It doesn’t really matter why, it is your choice entirely.

Perhaps all that needs to happen to prevent the ongoing nudges to apply is to explain to your bosses at Job Two how much you like your current arrangement with them, reassure them you are committed to the company and let them know you look forward to working with them long into the future as a full-time casual.

I recently accepted a new 12-month contract role. Having signed the contract with an agreed start date, I resigned. However, last week, I got a call from the recruiter informing me the start date was delayed indefinitely, although they haven’t formally terminated the contract yet. For various personal reasons, rescinding my resignation is not an option. The notice period for the new employer is just one day. Do I have any recourse to recover any damages from the new employer who will soon start causing me significant financial damage when I become unemployed?

This is a terrible situation and I can understand your concern. It is hard to see what you could have done differently given you did wait to sign the new contract before resigning from your old job, and you had every reason to believe the new contract would proceed. The recruiter also has a role in this given they would have known you intended to resign from your current role after signing the new contract, and ultimately, it is their client who has acted unprofessionally.

I would speak to the recruiter, explain your situation and ask them to start working on finding a new position for you. I don’t think you have any other recourse in terms of financial damages and ultimately, that one-day notice period could have been used at any point during the contract and is definitely something to look out for in future contracts.

Months ago, I agreed to help out my employer by backfilling for a colleague who went on leave. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise what I agreed to, and am now working two full-time roles, at least 12 hours a day. To make matters worse, my new manager is chaotic and too busy to communicate. I don’t want to leave my under-resourced team in the lurch but cannot keep working like this. I am constantly exhausted and anxious, it’s making my life miserable. Do you have advice?

Pass this problem back to your colleague, or your employer. Assuming your colleague is now back from leave, they need to manage their own workload. The fact that they are chaotic and not communicating is another issue, and one that you can helpfully reframe as not being about you. While you carry the load and responsibility you are going to continue to feel burnt out so that is the first thing that has to be addressed. Once you can return to just managing your own role, then you can figure out whether you really want to leave. Hopefully, when you are back to just doing your own position, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

To submit a question about work, careers or leadership, visit (you will not be asked to provide your name or any identifying information. Letters may be edited).

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