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Private use of a business mobile phone: Is that possible?

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

Ok is only what has been agreed.

Everything is possible. Some employers provide employees with a business mobile phone. Some allow private use of the company mobile phone, others forbid it. And still others follow the BYOD trend - Bring Your Own Device - where employees use their private mobile phones for work. There are hardly any legally anchored rules for the use of company mobile phones. The employment contract, in combination with the company's statutes and security guidelines, is decisive.

Mediacom Geschäftshandy Firmenhandy Business Mobile Abo
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We take a look at the most important points:

Private use of the business mobile phone

Private use of company mobile phones is generally prohibited. However, many companies make exceptions and release company devices for private use. It is important for the employer to ensure security for his company. If a smartphone is also used privately, the risk of data loss, data theft or malware increases for the company. Every company should have security regulations for the private use of company devices. It is also important that employees are aware of these. Some companies organise specific training in this regard.


Who pays for the private use of the company mobile phone?

Here, too, the provisions of the employment contract apply; because in principle anything goes. Most companies use flat rates and do not charge their employees any additional costs. However, some companies deduct a certain amount from employees' wages for private use of the business mobile phone.


If the smartphone is used abroad, this should also be contractually regulated. The use of social media is now often part of everyday working life; but here too, caution is advised and, above all, private use should be clarified with the employer in advance.


Company mobile phone during holidays

There are also certain regulations regarding the use of the company mobile phone during holidays, but the legal situation is still vague. If the employer requires an employee to be available at all times during the holidays, this cannot be counted as holiday. Absolute emergencies are an exception.


Who pays for the broken business mobile phone?

As a general rule, the employee is responsible for the damage he or she causes to the employer. If the damage was caused intentionally, the employee is fully liable; in the case of negligence, he or she must at most pay for part of the damage.


Tax on company mobile phones

The private use of a business mobile does not have to be declared in the salary statement, as it is not a remunerated service and is not subject to VAT. If the employer charges the employee an amount for private use, the company must tax this at the standard rate.

Is the employer allowed to monitor the work mobile phone?

Without permission, the business may not read mails that are recognisable as private or listen to telephone conversations. Spying programmes are also prohibited. This would provide the company with information on software used, websites visited, emails, contacts and even passwords.


The other way round: private mobile phones for business purposes

More and more often one reads about the trend "bring your own device". However, the principle applies that the employer must provide the work devices unless otherwise agreed. It becomes problematic if the employee uses the private device for work purposes without the permission of the superior. If this causes damage to the company, the employee may be dismissed or even be liable for damages.


Above all, security plays a major role for the company when employees access company data from their own mobile phones. Many apps can access sensitive business information, especially addresses and appointments.


Tips for dealing with the business mobile phone:

Clear agreements:

As an employer, you should establish clear guidelines for the use of company mobile phones. For example, you should specify to what extent private use is permitted and which apps are allowed.As an employee, you should definitely ask about the terms of use. If you do not find any information on this, you should approach your employer about it.


Train employees:

To avoid data loss, data theft or other damages, it is advisable for the employer to train the employees properly.


Separate apps:

Those who use the same mobile phone for business and private purposes can better separate data thanks to separate apps. For example, business emails could only be accessed via the Outlook app and private emails with a Google app, for example.


Control permissions:

Each app should only have the access permissions that you actually want and need.


Do not store locally:

Company data should never be stored locally if a mobile phone is also used privately. The risk of damage and loss is far too great. One solution to this is to set up VPN access to the data for employees. This secures access to company data.


VoiP apps:

To create a clear separation between private and business use, the employer's existing VoiP apps, for example, can be used to make phone calls. This way, the employee does not have to disclose the private mobile phone number and the costs are also automatically billed via the employer.

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