Employers should reimburse for work-related BYOD expenses anyway

The recent California Appeals Court decision about employer phone call reimbursement has received a lot of press lately--mainly detailing how the decision will mean the end of BYOD or at least a curbing of enthusiasm for the phenomenon.

If we put aside the fact that the ruling only applies to California employers and can be appealed, let's look at the impact of the ruling on reimbursement of BYOD expenses. The court ruled that employers must reimburse employees for personal mobile phone charges related to work and that this reimbursement must be a "reasonable percentage" of the employee's overall phone bill.

"We hold that when employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls….Whether the employees have cell phone plans with unlimited minutes or limited minutes, the reimbursement owed is a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills," the court ruled.

The court's ruling is not radical at all. It makes sense and fits in with general corporate policy of reimbursing employees for work-related expenses. If I go to a conference (which all seem to be held in Las Vegas nowadays), my company reimburses me for the expenses related to that trip. It does not reimburse me for my gambling losses.

This widely accepted corporate policy should be applied to BYOD expenses as well. In fact, around half of employees already do reimburse employees for work-related BYOD expenses, according to a survey of 100 firms by Good Technology.

But the other half should also be reimbursing their employees. It's only fair, and it fits in with accepted corporate practice in other areas where employees incur work-related expenses. As James Scott, COO and CFO at TetherView, wrote on a Proformative forum: "We reimburse employees monthly as part of an approved expense report." Makes sense.

There appears to be the view out there that requiring companies to reimburse for work-related BYOD expenses will be a huge financial burden on enterprises. It won't.

BYOD is not about saving the company money; it is about improving employee productivity. Even without having to reimburse employees for BYOD expenses, companies have to pay money to manage, support and secure all of those devices coming into their environment. So if BYOD were truly just a way for companies to save money on equipment and phone service, it wouldn't have gotten off the ground.

Let's stop the hype about the California court ruling and let's start reimbursing employees for work-related BYOD expenses. It's only fair. - Fred