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I'm an software engineer working together with 2 peers from my company on-site at customer location. We all have to rely on company-provided pocket wifi for internet connection as we are not allowed to connect to the customer network infrastructure (security policy).

Once the monthly data limit is used we're effectively blocked working - which results in our tasks not finishing on-time. The employer requested one of us to make a contract in our own name for personal unlimited wifi and use this for working purpose instead. The monthly cost can be reimbursed by the company but to me this seems in best case fishy, in worst case illegal.

My biggest concerns as following:

  • providers offer different plans for personal/corporate wifi - so we're forced to make a contract under false pretences
  • high contract cancelation fee if canceled before 3 years, i.e. if leaving the company
  • the obligation to pay for this with personal funds in case the wifi devices gets damaged
  • as connection owner individual legal liability for everything other colleagues will do usign this connection

Is it common practice that the employer demands employee to make such a contract in their own name? I'm worried that if I decline the request from the employer, that it will look like I'm planning to leave the company soon. We're based in Japan, if that matters.

  • 1
    You should shop around with different providers. My guess is that you'll find very different types of contracts. The high cancelation fee is most likely because you're not putting a deposit down and/or because you're not buying the hardware. If your client company isn't willing to pay upfront the real cost of the hardware and any accompanying deposit, that's a warning that you shouldn't do so either. – Stephan Branczyk Jun 20 '18 at 8:04
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    Have the company pay you the full three years of the contract up front. – さりげない告白 Jun 20 '18 at 8:07
  • @さりげない告白 Who pays the cancellation fee if the OP leaves the company? – scaaahu Jun 20 '18 at 8:44
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    @scaaahu OP will have recieved all of the money to pay all 3 years upfront so there is no need to cancel early (or if he does, the remaining months worth of money will be cheaper than the cancellation fee) so if he does cancel, OP would pay it (but he has already received the money to do so) – さりげない告白 Jun 20 '18 at 9:03
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    Leave and get a job at a functional company. What you describe is nuts. – Fattie Jun 20 '18 at 13:19
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Don't do it! I don't see any reason why you should sign a contract for an asset that is required by your company and not you personally. No matter what the circumstances are, it's not your job to provide the company with tools to do work. It's the company's job to provide the tools to you.

If the client wants you to be on-site, they need to provide you with all the tools you need to do your work, including Internet access if necessary. If they can't provide it for whatever reason, do the work from your company's offices (I presume you have Internet access there). If you can't work from your company's offices, and can't work from your client's offices... it's something that needs to be handled by the managers, not you!

To me this is just a sign of a badly organized or run company. Something like that would never occur in a well organized company.

1

I'm going to answer in contrast to the other answers, since in my experience, this is fairly common. It's typically labeled as BYOD - which depending on context, can stand for "bring your own device" or "bring your own data." It's especially common in consulting - every consulting firm I've worked for has had this sort of program, where the staff have their own data contract for use onsite with clients, and are reimbursed for the expense.

In either case, the implication is that the employee is responsible for "owning" a resource required for the job (either a data contract and/or the device required to use it - a wifi dongle or whatever). The employer reimburses the employee for the expense. Contract negotiations, choice of carrier, etc are up to the employee.

The advantage for the employee is that they get what they want - if they prefer a specific carrier or whatever. The advantage for the employer is that they don't have to manage yet another contract.

If you're concerned about being left with a lengthy contract if/when you leave this company, look for carriers that do month-to-month billing. For instance, in the US, Cricket wireless has monthly unlimited plans with no contract - that's what I'm using right now, as part of a BYOD program.

All that said - it does strike me that your employer is shooting from the hip to solve a problem, and not simply carrying out a pre-defined policy that they use across the board. In this case, I would ask to make the policy clear before investing anything yourself. Make sure it's documented that you will be reimbursed, make sure you understand the procedure for submitting the expense, etc. and clarify if the employer has any restrictions on how or what data plan or device you choose.

  • BYOD depends on context. If you are a freelancer basically every device you have is "work" and "personal" device. Important thing is, you are responsible for the data you have on it, and usually freelancers have separate devices for work and private use because of NDA-s. If you are contracted as a consultant from another company, BYOD usually means bring the device your company provided you, instead of using the one from the client, meaning again you are not using your personal device. – Chapz Jun 20 '18 at 13:40
  • Why the down votes? This must be a culture thing, because I would do this in a heartbeat. Free laptops, free internet, free phones. Who cares who pays the bill. As long as I get reimbursed it doesn't matter to me. Sometimes the companies just reimburse the invoice and they never even ask what kind of deal you ordered. As long as you can do the job they're happy to pay for it. – user7360 Jun 20 '18 at 13:50
  • The downside is that the employee may collude to defraud the employer by letting the contract to a "friend" at > market rates - this is a common cause a fraud in large companies. – Neuromancer Jun 20 '18 at 21:31
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The employer requested one of us to make a contract in our own name for personal unlimited wifi and use this for working purpose instead.

There are many reasons why your manager could be suggesting this. Not all of them are inherently malicious.

One well-intentioned possible reason would be that the company's internal process is too slow to actually solve the issue in the short term (approval process, product acquisition, ...), whereas reimbursements are at the manager's discretion.

Another reason is if the manager assumes that there will be personal use. As an example, my employer doesn't give us company phones because we hardly ever need them professionally, but they do reimburse us when we buy a phone (up to a given budget - we can go over the budget at our own cost). The phone is our property, but the company pays for it (partially) in order to justify requiring us to have a phone (they do pay for the provider contract, however).
To me, this makes sense from a financial perspective. It'd be more expensive to purchase phones (and support them), and most usage of the phones would be "wasted" on personal usage anyway.

I can see how a manager could assume that personal pocket wifi will similarly be used personally more than professionally. That doesn't mean they're right; but it's not malicious to assume so.


The request for you to do so, even if not malicious, is still unusual. The best approach here is to ask for clarification from your manager. Ask why you'd have to sign your name to the contract instead of the company doing so.

If there is a justifiable reason, e.g. the company can't provide you pocket wifi before the current project deadline, I (personally) would be okay with temporarily using the workaround.
If there are legal considerations here (you mention "personal" unlimited wifi - is there an issue if you use this professionally?), make sure that the agreement between you and the company is documented.

If there is no justifiable reason, or you simply don't feel comfortable doing so, you are legally able to refuse doing so. This can possibly harm the relationship between you and your employer, but that depends on how they handle your refusal (and also how you phrase your refusal - "Fuck no!" would be an obvious example here).
Legally, you can refuse to do so.


I hope this is not stereotyping too much, but as far as I'm aware, Japan has a cultural habit of having additional expectations of their employees. The example we hear about the most is being required to stay at work longer without being paid overtime (again, correct me if that's a wrong stereotype).

If there is a cultural expectation to cater to the company's request, you might be less able to refuse; but I simply can't answer that as I have little experience with Japan's work culture.

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It would be a very unusual demand. You could check how much an additional data allowance for your phone would cost, which might be a lot less.

The difference between personal account and company account is just how fast the provider has to work if things go wrong, if a personal account doesn’t work for a week they have no obligations other than refunding one weeks fees. So that’s not something to worry about.

In the UK I could get a MiFi device with PAYG data for about £50. No contract. If you can’t do this without a long term contract then this is unacceptable.

Refusing gives no indication that you want to leave the company. It is common sense that things change.

  • 2
    Although your intention is kind, I would not suggest getting the data plan. Bear in mind if there's a plan in your name, you are responsible for what it's being used for. If OPs coworker gets caught pirating, OP is the one responsible and has to pay the fine, for example in Germany: settle-in-berlin.com/… – Caroline Jun 20 '18 at 8:10
  • As Caroline writes, don't use a personal plan. Also, most personal plans explicitly forbid sharing the connection with others, or using it as a sort of permanent connection. While violating this rule would probably not be criminal, the provider might still decide to throttle you or cut you off at any time, which may be a problem. – sleske Jun 20 '18 at 8:15
  • @Caroline: Agree with you, but OP didn't explicitly mention that others would be using OP's pocket wifi. I do think it's likely that this is the intended case, but in case it is not, that particular concern isn't applicable. – Flater Jun 20 '18 at 8:44

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