company phone plan employee guide

Company Phones in Switzerland Questions and Answers

January 24, 2023 - Raphael Knecht

A free phone with a mobile plan to boot? It sounds almost too good to be true. Get informed about the possible costs and limitations of company phones in this guide.

Your new employer is offering you a company phone – but will it cost you anything? And can the company phone be used privately as well? Online comparison service answers the most important questions about company phones. 

What is a company phone?

The term company phone is normally used for phones with accompanying mobile plans which employers offer to their employees. These devices are primarily for work-related use, which sets them apart from employee mobile plans.

What do company phones cost?

Unlike employee mobile plans, you normally do not pay for company phones and plans yourself. Your employer pays the bills for these directly. But there are certain costs which you may still have to cover yourself, in some cases. For example, your employer may deduct the cost of private use (particularly mobile roaming) from your salary. Your company may decide to put a limit on the portion of costs which it covers.

Do I have a right to a company phone?

Your employer generally is not required to offer company phones to employees. But Swiss law does require that you be properly equipped for the work you have to do. If a mobile phone is indispensable for the work you have to do, then your employer has to make one available to you. Alternatively, you can also agree to use your personal device – and possibly get compensated for this.

Can I use a company home for personal stuff?

Many employers allow you to use company phones for your personal communications as well. This model is known as corporate owned, personally enabled (COPE). The terms and conditions which apply in your specific case can be found in your employer’s company phone agreement.

If you are not sure whether or not you can use a company phone privately, then avoid doing so altogether. A good first step is to ask your employer whether they offer a COPE model, which rules apply.

Is using a company phone for personal calls a good idea?

The advantage of using a company phone for your personal calls as well – assuming you are allowed to do so – is that you do not need a separate personal phone and plan for your private calls and online activity. You save money, and do not need to have multiple devices. Whether or not using a company phone is a good idea for you depends on whether you are ready to accept the disadvantages as well.

The biggest disadvantage is that separating your personal and work communications is nearly impossible. If you use your work phone number private calls and leisure phone use as well, you remain permanently available for your co-workers and business contacts – unless you switch off your phone. That constant availability and the lack of a clear line between your private and work lives can take a psychological toll.

Another possible disadvantage is that you may not be able to keep your phone number after leaving your employer.

What can I do with a company phone?

In principle, you can only use a company phone for the tasks which you and your employer have agreed to. Often, even employer which allow you to use the phone privately forbid certain activities (such as visiting websites with pornographic or racist content) which could damage the company’s reputation. Additionally, activities which are generally illegal are also forbidden on company phones.

In many cases, calling toll numbers is blocked. In that case, you may find yourself unable to call certain numbers – including many emergency medical lines.

Your company phone may have software controls which may, for example, only allow the installation of certain apps. In that case, popular apps like Whatsapp and Facebook may be blocked, unless your employer explicitly allows them.

Can my superiors track my company phone activity?

If the phone is only used for work, your employer can – if they have good reasons for it – request that you give them access to the phone’s data. Companies can also use software to survey company phones over the Internet.

Secret surveillance carried out without the employee’s knowledge is not allowed. If your superiors want to read your work emails, check GPS data, or listen in on phone calls, for example, they have to inform you about this in advance.

Additionally, your employer cannot track your personal communications or record any personal data. The line is somewhat blurred in the case of phones which are used for both work and personal activities. Some companies use a separate work profile on Android phones. This is a separate user environment on your phone in which you can keep your business contacts and install apps. You can also install a second “work” copy of an app which you also use in your personal profile. Your employer generally has much more access to the work profile than to the rest of the phone. Often, the work profile is blocked when you leave the company.

Do I have to replace a broken company phone?

You normally only have to pay for damages to company phones if they result from gross negligence. If you acted carelessly, your employer could demand that you cover part of the cost yourself. If you deliberately damage a company phone, you may have to cover all of the damages.

Can I make changes to a company phone plan?

If you want to change your mobile plan – to a plan with faster Internet, for example – you will have to ask your employer. You cannot deal with the telecom company yourself because the contract is between them and your employer.

Am I allowed to turn my company phone off?

Your employer cannot require you to be available around the clock without a special contractual agreement. Holidays aside, you also have a right to a daily leisure period of at least eleven consecutive hours.

Time during which you must be available for your employer counts as work hours. Extraordinary work hours are also only allowed within certain limitations.

On the other hand, if you switch off your phone during your agreed work hours, this could, under some circumstances, be seen as a breach of your employment contract. Depending on your line of work, you may not be able to fulfill your work obligations – such as being available for your boss or for customers.

Do I have to return the company phone?

Company phones are normally the property of your employer. You normally have to return your company phone when you stop working for them. Your employer can, in fact, ask you to return the phone at any time, even without you leaving the company. But if the phone is needed to complete your employment duties, your employer cannot take it away without providing an alternative solution.

What should I consider when returning the phone?

If you have used the phone for personal communications or activities, you should always reset the phone to the factory settings. If not, your employer and possibly the phone’s subsequent users will have easy access to your personal data.

Your employer may set out other stipulations, and you should account for these. You will normal be informed about requirements before the handover date – but otherwise make sure to ask.

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Editor Raphael Knecht
Raphael Knecht was an analyst and a specialized editor at until the end of February 2023. Since then, he is supporting the editorial team as a freelancer.
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