The University will be changing its system of providing cell and smart phones to employees and will no longer be providing these devices even when necessary for work. This is due to IRS documentation requirements for University-issued phones and potential substantial fines for noncompliance, as well as the significant time required by staff to document usage. With the mounting financial pressures on the University at this time, these two factors would result in lost productive work time as well as potential monetary damages.
Instead the University will provide stipends, paid bi-weekly, to cover associated costs incurred by those employees eligible to have a cell phone or smart phone. The amount of the stipend will be based on the number of minutes required to use the phone and if there is a need to monitor email from a mobile device. The stipend will be taxable income to the employee. Because the cell phone/smart phone is a personal phone (not state property), it may be used for personal calls and be in compliance with the Connecticut State ethics rules. Additionally, this program will eliminate our need to comply with IRS rules and the necessary administrative management that requires each cell phone user to account for every cell phone call by listing caller, reason for the call and whether or not it is personal or business related.
Under the new policy, UConn employees would be eligible for the stipend if they spend considerable time outside of the office and it is important to the University that they be accessible during those times; their job function requires them to be accessible outside of scheduled or normal working hours; their job function requires them to have wireless data and Internet access and/or the employee is a “first responder” to campus emergencies.
Each department is responsible for budgeting for the cost of the stipends. Given the tough economic times, this programmatic change provides a good opportunity to review cell phone usage in your unit. If your unit has staff members who only use a cell phone during working hours, perhaps less expensive forms of communication (two way radios or beepers, etc.) might be appropriate. If cell phones are appropriate, you may establish centralized department cell phones that must be checked out and returned at the end of each shift. Staff members who are issued department cell phones while at work will be required to document the purpose of each call sent and received, and department managers will be required to review call logs on a monthly basis to ensure the phones were used for business purposes. Department cell phones will continue to be managed through Telecommunications as they are currently. Training for those units that want to understand how Departmental cell phones are to be managed will be scheduled for early February. A separate email will be sent within the next week announcing these training sessions.
To accomplish this change by mid-February, 2009, we are asking that you work with the employees in your department who have been assigned phones in order to process the paperwork necessary to receive the stipend and turn back their current device to the University. An outline of a step by step process and more detailed information about the University’s new policy, IRS regulations, commonly asked questions and answers, and other information are located at http://stipend.uconn.edu
Currently, the stipend program applies only to management exempt employees of the University. Labor Relations is discussing these changes with each bargaining unit and we hope to have an agreement to include their respective employees soon. We will update you at that time.
Peter Nicholls, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Barry Feldman, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Richard Gray, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer