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Do organizations need a BYOD reimbursement policy?

UC expert Michael Finneran explains why organizations should consider a BYOD reimbursement policy for employee use of mobile devices.

Bring your own device (BYOD) creates a more flexible workplace as employees are able to perform their duties any time on any device. For employees who work on their own devices and cellular plans, do their employers owe them some kind of financial BYOD reimbursement?

According to a California court, they do, said Michael Finneran at the Enterprise Connect panel "Getting BYOD right." In the case of Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service, the court determined if employees had to use their cell phones to communicate something regarding the company, they must be reimbursed.

While reimbursement can be complicated with cellular plans that include unlimited talk and text, employers owe a "reasonable percentage" of the bill, according to the ruling.

BYOD has become a big human resources issue, Finneran said. While organizations can save money with BYOD, "are we talking about saving money or transferring cost from the organization to the employees?" he asked.

Organizations are split concerning BYOD reimbursement, Finneran said, citing an InformationWeek survey on mobile security. According to the survey, 39% of organizations don't offer BYOD reimbursement, while 40% of organizations pay a partial reimbursement. Just 10% of organizations pay employees back in full.

For organizations that do offer some kind of reimbursement, the challenge becomes figuring out how to pay employees. Some organizations reimburse employees through their paychecks, while others use things like expense vouchers or a stipend. Organizations also need to consider special cases like additional mobile costs during international travel for work, Finneran said.

While the ruling in Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service applies only in California, similar cases could pop up in other states. As more organizations adopt BYOD, developing a reimbursement policy should be a serious consideration.

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