Cell Phone Use Policy: Business-Issued vs. Personal

We are trying to develop a consistent cell phone policy at our firm regarding use of business-issued vs. personal cell phones.  Currently, our firm issues cell phones to senior staff and those who are frequently out of the office at client job sites.  For assigned phones, the cell phone numbers are included on employee business cards issued by the firm.  We also make available "unassigned" business cell phones for staff who may have a periodic need to be in contact from a client site.  Our current policy limits the use of business cell phones for personal calls (similar to land-line phones) to emergency or brief conversations for coordinating personal needs.

With increasing number of employees having personal cell phones, our staff are asking if they can use their personal phones instead of being given a business phone (the reason expressed is that they do not want to carry more than one phone -- though it is not clear why someone "needs" to have a personal phone always on/available during work hours) with the expectation that all or part of the cost of their personal phone use would be reimbursed by the company.  

Although we could potentially save money on cell phone costs by allowing staff to use their personal phones, some potential concerns/issues:
1.  Are there any legal restrictions that we need to be aware of if we allow use of personal phones for business?
2.  What is company liability for employee use of phone for "personal" vs. "business" use and how would this be distinguished legally?
3.  What is the ability of company to regulate employee use of phones if it is a personal phone?
4.  Would we be able to address potential IT issues with "Smartphones" that also interface with company EMail/intranet systems
5.  If we put personal cell phone numbers on business cards, is the employee then considered always "on call"?
6.  If employee leaves the firm, business calls to a personal cell cannot be automatically forwarded to someone else at the company.
7.  Would there be increased administrative time/cost with reviewing cell phone use and verifying reimbursement amounts (unless flat reimbursement dollar amount specified?)
8.  If continue some phones on business plan and others on personal cell reimbursement plan, then it may impact the cost-effectiveness of existing business cell plan.  Also, would there be "fairness" issues if some staff were allowed to use personal phones and others were required to use business phones (for example, those who put cell phone number on business card being required to use business phone).
9.  What are legal requirements for reimbursement?  Can we set a flat rate that is only a partial cost of the employee's total phone plan or would we be required to reimburse the entire plan (in which case it would be better to have business phones that we allow employees to use for personal use)?

I am leaning toward requiring the use of business cell phones for anyone who needs to use a cell phone for business purposes and not allowing (or limiting) use of personal cell phones for business purposes.  However, perhaps I am missing an opportunity to save money on operational costs for cell phones and keep employees happy.

I am curious as to what other firms are doing, and appreciate any thoughts/advice that others on this forum may have.




  • 5 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I've seen it both ways.  Business issued phones are a far better proposition for the HR department (who will have to clean up any of the irregularities).

  • My company states that personal cell phones are not allowed unless authorized by the president.  We have only 3 employees (out of 51) who use personal cell phones for company business.  Myself being one of them.  I am not out of the office very often, but wouldn't you know the one time I am a crisis arises! I would look at doing a flat rate reimbursment for ease of accounting. 

    We publish company cell phones on business cards, but so far have not run into the "always on call" issue.  I think you could argue that you do not require your ee to answer the phone after hours.  I'm sure your ee handbook addresses and defines work hours, if they are answering the phone after their normal hours they are violating company policy.   <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

    One of the things you need to be aware of is the use of company cell phones while your ee is driving.  We strictly prohibit this activity unless they have a bluetooth and then the call should be 2 min or less. (We have truck drivers that at times need to call a job site to get unloading instructions and pulling an 18 wheeler to the side of the road is harder than you think.  

     Should an ee have an accident while on a company cell phone, even if on a personal call, you open yourself up to liability.  Though there does not seem to be much out there that does not open you up to liability theses days. Most states are moving to stopping the use of cell phones while driving unless you have a handsfree device.  So I would check your states requirements also. 

    I would also be hesitant to link personal cell phones with your company IT system.  You could be taking on a lot of support that you dont want to do.   


  • We have company issued cell phones/blackberries.

    One thing I want to address from the OP is the comment about why someone needs to have a personal cell phone on at work.  I have a company issued cell phone/blackberry but I also have a personal cell phone.  Both are on me at work.  My husband is in public safety and he is only able to call me at certain times, depending on whether he is on a scene or not.  I keep my personal cell phone on me for him to be able to call me when he can to let me know if he will be coming home late or getting called out.  I also have a set of grandparents that are not doing well at the moment. I have my cell phone on me so that my mom can call me if she needs my help to take care of something or if the situation gets worse.  There are many other situations I can think of - a child's school calling a parent for an emergency, some of the school systems will send out e-mails/text messages to the phone number on record if the school decides to close early that day, etc.  I guess my point is that I don't believe a total ban of personal cell phones in the workplace is appropriate.  I also think that you need to make sure your employees understand throught policy that they can't be on their personal cell phone all day either, just like they can't be on the company's phone all day.   

  • You may want to consider banning camera use at work and the ability to plug phones into computers via the USB ports (to avoid mass data collection). The camera can be a security concern of private records or lead to employee relation nightmares. I had a situation where EEs took rear-end pics of other unknowing EEs in the break room, and then had an email competition on the biggest one. That was also their last day of work ;)
  • HR_Fun makes some good points about security. There is also the question of monitoring calls or spot checking phone bills for violations of policy--a lot easier on a business phone, where there also can be no expectation of privacy.  You must be very specific in your cell phone policy about what types of calls (harassing, discussing proprietary information or confidential personnel information, etc.) cannot be made over cell phones.

    Regarding why an employee needs a phone at all times--the employee may have a small child, sick relative, or elderly parent and have to be available by phone for emergencies.

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