Monday, August 25, 2014

Mobile phones and BYOD

How do you prefer to communicate when you are at work? Do you use a traditional "land line" and desktop handset, a VOIP system, or your personal mobile phone?

Like an increasing number of workers, you probably use your own mobile phone for at least of your work. And in IT, "at work" doesn't always mean "at the office." Support folks who are "on call" often are "on the clock" when at home, to support production systems if things go do or have problems. Rather than carry a work phone in addition to their personal phone, or even a work pager in addition to a personal phone, many IT workers opt just to use their personal mobile phone for everything. It's certainly more convenient—and if you have an unlimited mobile plan, it's not more expensive.

But this mode of "BYOD" may soon change. According to a recent article in Forbes:
The California court of appeal issued a sweeping decision that may spark a new wave of class action lawsuits against California employers. … [T]he appellate court determined that employers must reimburse employees for work-related phone calls made on personal cell phones or face liability.
So what does this mean? This decision may alter how employees and employers treat mobile phones. Under the law, employers will need to reimburse a "reasonable percentage" of mobile phone use that account for work (at least, in California). Expect employers to create new policies that clarify personal phone use, and define a reimbursement strategy. Under "reasonable percentage," some companies may simply assume a percentage of phone usage and reimburse a flat percentage. That would certainly be easiest, requiring the least effort from both employee and employer. Others may opt to issue phones to mobile workers. For very bureaucratic organizations, employees may need to provide a printed bill every month, highlighting work usage.

Forbes predicts this future:
To the extent employers require employees to use a cell phone for work, employers should consider providing their employees with cell phones and voice/texting plans. In the alternative, employers should implement written policies requiring their employees to track and submit expense reports regarding their work-related cell phone usage so that employees can be reimbursed for the actual cost of such usage. If the actual cost cannot be determined, such as if an employee already has an unlimited minutes/texting personal plan, then the employer will be required to reimburse the employee for a “reasonable percentage” of the personal cell phone bill. The court did not provide any guidance as to what a “reasonable percentage” means. Finally of course, employers can avoid the problem altogether and make clear that cell phones are not needed and should not be used for work.
photo: William Hooko

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