In an informal poll we conducted recently, we asked TechRepublic members who is responsible for paying for their cell phones and service, who is responsible for a lost or damaged phone, and whether they think the company policy is generous.

Responses came from all over the globe. It seems this issue strikes a chord with a lot of IT professionals—both those who relish the freedom that a cell phone provides and those who dread being on call at all times. One thing was obvious; our readers rely heavily on their cell phones for work. Here’s what we found.

The boss pays the bill
Most respondents told us that their employers pay for their cell phones and service. For some, their cell phones are their primary point of contact.

“My company pays for my cell phone, as it is the most effective and convenient means of contacting me at any time,” wrote Rafiq Hajat of Limbe, Malawi. “The telecommunications network in Malawi leaves a lot to be desired, and more reliance is being placed on cell phones as a viable alternative, despite being more expensive to operate. The question is, can one afford to sustain losses that could have been avoided by timely communication and subsequent corrective action?”

Lisa Fullerhas worked for several companies, and all had generous cell phone policies, she said. “Never have I had a situation where none of the calls were covered. The communications channel is far too important to not have it available for business use,” Fuller wrote.

Others reported that their companies pay for phones and service, but limit their usage.

“Our company has now set a monthly dollar limit for cell phone usage. If that amount is exceeded, then the employee is accountable for the overage,” said Hal Coghill, a technical support specialist. “They also have negotiated some good rate packages with a national carrier for digital phones that should more than cover necessary talk times in a month that cost less than the limit. In other words, there should be few excuses for exceeding the limit.”

Luis Gutiérreztravels often for his job with Distributed System Consulting Services, and the company provides $35 each month toward his cell phone bill.

“It includes basic charges and about 130 minutes of usage,” he wrote. “I pay for any additional minutes when they are for personal use only. Business minutes are expensed when they are above 130.”

N. Kuttyof Lawtech Services LTD in the United Kingdom is provided with a mobile phone, yet he opted to keep his personal phone and use it for business, too.

“The company pays for the calls I make due to work,” Kutty wrote. “Of course, it is a disadvantage when compared to the others since my company does not pay for my rental and other calls. I chose that option only because I did not want to carry two phones—where my friends and family could reach me on one and the other was for business only.”

Paying out-of-pocket
Some respondents told us that their employers pay for the phone and service, but that employees pay for personal calls.

“I bought the phone and it is my responsibility if I lose it or break it. I have a 400-minute PCS service for which I pay $45 per month,” wrote Michael F. Stefanchik with Rocky Mountain Specialty Care in Greeley, CO. “I have saved the company money by using up the 400-minutes [instead of] making the same calls on the regular phone service. I thought about bringing this to their attention, but I love the freedom my phone gives me, so I shoulder the cost.”

A small number of respondents told us they are responsible for purchasing phones and paying the bills, yet they conduct company business on them.

“The thing that burns me is that they say we don’t have to get one unless we want it, but then while you’re sitting [in] traffic or flying down the highway at 60 miles an hour, they page you and need you to call them right back,” Kevin wrote. “So, in a sense, you have to have one, but because of the way they phrase it—’If you want one’— it gets them off the hook for having to pay for it.”

Area laws hamper others’ personal cell phone usage.

“I do not pay for private conversations, and the company does not care,” Claus Thomasen wrote. “But, officially, I never use it for private calls because I live in Denmark, and the Danish IRS will tax me [for] the value of a free phone if I do.”

It’s… uh…an important client
A few respondents told us they have one phone but separate numbers for business and personal calls. That way, the user’s personal calls are tallied for separate payment.

“We are expected to pay for personal calls on the phones, so most supervisors either carry their own personal cell phone in addition to the department phone or they have a cell phone with a personal number and an office number,” Terry Torreswrote. “They switch between the two numbers, depending on how they need to use it.”

Likewise, Lars Gisel—a project manager for TGC Global Compliance Services in Solna, Sweden—wrote that his company pays for all business-related calls from his cell phone, and he pays for personal calls. “With two different pin codes I can choose who will be charged, the company or myself.”

Having a choice of carriers
Having a choice of carriers and service is important to many IT professionals, according to our survey. Many reported choosing to use their personal phones rather than go with the company-provided carrier.

N. Smithreported that the policy at Systems North allows eligible employees to obtain their own phones and service from a local company. Policy stipulates that service should include voice-mail options and cover the widest area of territory as possible to minimize roaming charges.

“My company gives the employees a flat monthly rate for cell phone usage,” wrote Rudolph Hoffman, president of RH Consulting, Inc. “They are free to choose the plan and phone they want. If they use more than the allotted amount, it comes out of their pockets. Most techs have no problem keeping under the allotted amount.“

The dog ate my cell phone
Some employers are more understanding than others about a lost or broken cell phone. A few of you told us your phones would be replaced, no questions asked, while others would pay out-of-pocket.

“We have a ‘Telecommunications Waiver-Assumption of Liability,’ which all new employees must sign prior to being issued a phone,” wrote Teena T. Poole of Centex Homes. “[It] basically holds them responsible if the phone is lost or damaged while in their possession. However, if it happens to befall a legitimate accident, we look at it on a case-by-case basis, and, in some cases, the company will replace it without holding the employee responsible.”

Because phones are available on a per-request basis from team leaders for their employees at Ron Slavicek’s company, “if a phone is lost we usually require a higher level of signature authority for the replacement,” he wrote.

Gregory Stuckyreported that his company will replace a phone, but “a face-to-face meeting is required to enumerate the situation,” he wrote. “The replacement cost may fall on the employee if gross negligence is the reason for loss or damage, like an employee threw it against a wall or other such stupidity.”

The reward for hard work is…
Finally, we asked whether you believe your company’s policy to be a generous one. Not necessarily, many of you said, even if the company pays for the phone, the service, and a replacement. As an IT professional who is on call around the clock, most of you expressed that it’s just part of the job.

Peter Youll, a director of IT and facilities for a firm in Chatswood, Australia concurred.

“The unwritten policy is that if the company expects one to be available at all times on the mobile they provide—including while on holiday—they can pay for any calls made,” Youll wrote.

“As the director of IT, I feel that since the company needs to contact me, the company should pay at least a share of my cell phone bill, whether or not they actually do call me,” an anonymous respondent wrote. “It’s the privilege of being able to call on me that they’re paying for.”
Want to sing the praises or vent some frustration over your company’s cell phone policy? Post a comment below or send us a note.