Allowing employees to use their own mobile devices to perform their jobs can save the employee time and the employer money, as Walmart’s recent adoption of a bring-your-own device (BYOD) policy suggests. Employers nevertheless need to be sensitive to certain legal, security and privacy concerns with such policies.

Reversing a ban on employees using their smartphones for work, Walmart will now let workers access their cell phones to clock in, check inventory and prices, scan products, and review sales data, according to Business Insider. We’ve gathered articles on BYOD policies from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets.

How Employees Can Participate

To participate in Walmart’s BYOD program, which is voluntary, employees will download Walmart apps to their smartphones. The apps will provide access to historical sales data and product delivery schedules previously available only to management. Walmart will have access to employees’ phone numbers, but not employees’ personal e-mail and data, photos, videos, voice mail, texts, web activity, locations or lists of apps.

(Business Insider)

BYOD and Compliance with Wage and Hour Laws

Employers should set some limits to their BYOD policies, wage and hour attorneys recommend Consider preventing nonexempt employees from accessing work e-mails through their mobile devices unless there’s a business need. Written policies should clarify that off-the-clock work is prohibited.

(SHRM Online)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Complying with U.S. Wage and Hour Laws and Wage Payment Laws]

Security Issues

A primary concern about BYOD policies among employers is security. Personal devices might not have an automatic lock code or timeout function, and some people don’t use passwords to protect their smartphones. Employers also worry that employees may connect to data through unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots or lose their devices. These possibilities raise the risk for the unauthorized disclosure of business data.

(HR Magazine)

Tips on BYOD Policies

Employers should avoid common errors with BYOD policies by:

  • Mandating a complex password protection for accessing employer servers.
  • Gaining consent from employees before having employer software installed on their devices.
  • Giving IT the capability to wipe devices clean if the devices are lost or stolen.
  • Instituting procedures for how to report lost or stolen devices, typically within 24 hours of the loss or theft.

(The National Law Review)

Respect Employees’ Privacy

As more employees use mobile devices on the job, employees are confused over what an employer can and can’t see. Workers tend to overestimate how much of their personal information is available to their employer when BYOD policies are in place. Employer access varies depending on the mobile operating system and the company’s policy. Employers typically can’t see personal e-mails and attachments, texts, photos, videos, voice mail and web activity unless that data has been routed through the corporate network.

(SHRM Online)

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