Should An Employer Provide Phone Equipment For Remote Workers?


With more people working from home, the issue of just what your employer is supposed to provide has become much more important. With lots of people relatively new to remote working, even months into the pandemic, it's become clear that not everyone understands what they're entitled to or what solutions the employer has to provide. Workplace advice columns have started seeing more issues with things like privacy and off-hours use, and it helps to know what equipment you're supposed to get — and what you have to provide yourself — when your company switches to remote work.

Providing Equipment

Your employer should provide any work-specific equipment. If the employer wants you to use a voice-over IP phone system (VoIP), for example, they need to provide the battery backup, router, special phone, and other equipment, or help you with costs if you need to buy it from your phone company. (Note that this is for W2 employment; if you're a freelancer, you should provide your own equipment.) It's not enough to tell you to get a VoIP system, especially if your home phone uses plain old telephone service, which uses the old copper phone lines and phone jacks, rather than cable and routers. The connections and equipment are different, and your employer has to acknowledge that and help you get set up properly.

Reimbursement in Some States

Some states require employers to reimburse you for work-related expenses from home. For example, if you need to install a dedicated work phone line at your home, your employer would be responsible for reimbursing you for the monthly cost of the line. If you're in one of these states, talk to your HR department if your supervisor doesn't know the details. If you're in a state that doesn't require reimbursement, you may be able to take advantage of home office deductions on your taxes, but you'd need to speak with an accountant about that to ensure you do it properly. If the only costs you have are for the phone, using the home office deduction can be tricky.

Privacy Issues

Your employer does need to respect your privacy, which is why having them provide a phone, VoIP equipment, and other items is so important. Some employers want to use tracking software during work hours, and you don't want that on your home equipment. If your boss wants to record all work-related calls on a smartphone, for example, then they need to give you a dedicated work smartphone and not insist that you install programs on your own cell phone.

Work needs to remain on work equipment. Knowing reimbursement and supply rules is crucial. If you run into an issue where your boss wants you to use your personal equipment for work and install work programs on your own personal computer, contact an employment lawyer to get the full rundown on what your boss is really supposed to provide. Likewise, contact an employment lawyer for more information. 


22 February 2021

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