July 19, 2018

Reimbursing Employee Phone Bills: What Are Your Options?


There are many types of businesses in which employees need to be on the phone a lot in order to get their jobs done.

You could have people in your retail business, for example, who need to travel a lot and be on the phone with suppliers from all over the country or world in order to make sure that your store has everything it needs.

Or you could have sales or call center employees who might not always work from the office, but might need to check in on clients or potential clients from their cell phones on the go.

It doesn’t even have to be an employee that works on the phone all day, like a sales or client success rep. For example, if your employer requires remote employees to be online on their smartphones at all times and able to communicate remotely with the rest of the team, that can be considered a necessary expense as well.

Also, if an employer requires remote employees to clock in and out of their remote worksites on their smartphones, that too can be considered to be a necessary expense.

Even though only California has a law that makes phone expense reimbursement absolutely mandatory, the general practice is that employers should reimburse employees who need to use phones to get their work done. The big question is how?

Reimbursing Employee Phone Bills 1

What Are Your Main Options?

Generally speaking, as an employer, you have two basic options. You can either ask your employees to use their own phones and then reimburse them accordingly or you can provide them with company phones.

Employers can require employees to use their personal property, phones or cars for example, as long as the employees are being properly reimbursed. This option is called BYOD – Bring Your Own Device.

The second option is called COPE – Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled technology. Both policies have their pros and cons so it’s important to take a deep dive into both in order to see which policy fits the needs of your business best.


It should be stated immediately that there are a lot of conflicting opinions on what the best policy is for businesses. Some people say that BYOD is best for small businesses and COPE works best for enterprises. However, there are also reports that show that more and more larger businesses are implementing BYOD policies.

Some reports say that BYOD is the future, while others say that it’s fading. If your company does plan on reimbursing employees for their phone use, it’s up to you to crunch the numbers, take a look at both options and make a decision that makes the most sense for your business.

One of the reasons that many business owners believe that BYOD is the best way to go is the fact that it seems to be more cost-effective, especially if you’re not running a large enterprise. Also, phone plans are expected to continue going down in price, so that’s another reason why BYOD is the policy that many predict will be the best option in the future.

This study from Gartner states that 50 percent of U.S. employees will soon be required to bring their own devices to work. However, BYOD could get messy and hard to keep track of and reimburse properly if your company is dealing with a larger number of employees. Not only that, but there are other things that corporations need to take into consideration, such as data privacy and security – which is probably the main reason why larger companies might want to opt for COPE plans instead.


According to a study released by Samsung in 2016, up to 80 percent of enterprises provide their employees with mobile devices, meaning that they prefer the COPE policy when it comes to paying for their employees’ phone usage.

As stated earlier, many larger businesses tend to be more concerned with data security and compliance. This is one of the main reasons why COPE is more attractive to enterprises. When your employees are using their personal devices for work, there are many more privacy and security concerns to worry about. However, when the device is company-issued, the business will be able to control these issues more easily.

It does seem, however, the COPE is really only an option for large corporations and enterprises. It’s almost always more expensive to buy your employees devices than to simply reimburse them for the time they spend using their personal devices for work-related tasks. On top of that, small business employees, particularly hourly workers, would probably consider having to carry around two devices at all times to be a pretty big and unnecessary burden.

Reimbursing Employee Phone Bills 2

Considering Telephony Software

If, as a business owner, you believe that both BYOD and COPE options could be burdensome and expensive for your company and its needs, the good news is that there are other options out there. The most obvious option is paying for phone software or webphone apps instead.

There are many reasons to consider this as a real option. Firstly, it’ll probably be cheaper. There are also a lot fewer legal and security issues to worry about.

If your employees need phones mostly for sales and support capacities, then webphone options could be even more attractive to you, because most of the best apps have excellent features that are specifically made for call center-type organizations – features that will make it easier for your employees to manage their calls and easier for you to monitor the quality of their work on the phone.

One of the main detractors that businesses point out with webphone applications is the fact that the quality of sound can sometimes be questionable. However, if your Internet connection is fast and stable, there really shouldn’t be too many issues to deal with on a regular basis.

Mobility is no longer a problem either when using phone software thanks to the fact that most of the best webphone providers have apps that can be installed and used on smartphones and tablets.

It’s hard to ignore the convenience of using this type of solution as well, especially when paying for it. It’s certainly much less complicated to pay one bill to your webphone software provider than it is to either buy phones for all your employees or reimburse each employee individually for his or her work-related phone use.

Naturally, every business has different needs and each of these solutions can be excellent and cost-effective options depending on your business needs. The good thing is that you do have options. Remember, the best solution is always the one that fits your business best both logistically and financially.