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For whom the cell tolls: Will California’s new employer-pays ruling kill BYOD for good?

For whom the cell tolls: Will California’s new employer-pays ruling kill BYOD for good?

150 150 Stijn Paumen

In August, a California court issued a decision in a class-action lawsuit that could spell the end for the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) to work uber-trend.

The ruling says that when workers must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls, employers must reimburse them. It’s easy to imagine law firm switchboards lighting up across the country with thousands of panicky IT departments ringing in for advice.

A lot of that advice has almost certainly been a variant of ‘end your BYOD policy immediately’. Whilst the ruling only covers the cost of voice calls at this stage, experts say the jump to including mobile data usage on BYOD devices is a short one in legal terms. And as we’ve seen again and again, mobile data is the real villain when it comes to monthly corporate bill shock.

So is it time to strike BYOD from the employee handbook? For some companies BYOD is now the entrenched workplace norm. In an office where nearly everyone uses their own device, is rolling back time to the days of corporate-owned-and-managed IT even feasible?

Despite the implications of the California ruling, we have to remember that – at this stage at least – it only applies in that state. More importantly, the trend toward BYOD is inseparable from the broader organisational shift to a mobilised workforce. People bring their own devices to work because they have quite literally bought into the benefits of workforce mobility; they just want to control how it’s done.

Instead of clamping down in fear of what might be coming, we would counsel better mobile management instead.

In a changing legal environment, having the right BYOD policy in place becomes even more important. An up-to-date corporate BYOD policy could protect employees’ freedom to access the information they want whilst also protecting your company from lawsuits.

On the technology side the California ruling adds some urgency to the argument for implementing a Mobile Data Gateway. It can apply the rules you set out in your policy for data usage on BYOD devices, but more importantly, it can give mobility managers control over how much data employees can consume. If that sounds like clamping down it really doesn’t have to be. A Mobile Data Gateway provides companies with the flexibility to allow controlled access to the services and applications employees use the most.

By raising granular visibility at the user level of the types of data pushing up costs, you can cap users at an allocated personal limit, use data compression to tackle video and other fat data and file types, and say yes or no to the wrong types of usage.

For more on the legal implications of the ruling, have a look at this analysis from the US office of law firm DLA Piper. Wandera’s Mobile Data Report provides more insight on how uncontrolled employee data usage can push up monthly costs.