rebaLINK: Cycle to work schemes and coronavirus

Cycle to work schemes have been given an unexpected boost thanks to coronavirus. With the government actively discouraging the use of public transport due to risks around social distancing, walking and cycling to work is having a revival.

Last week, transport secretary Grant Shapps announced a £2 billion package to create a new era for cycling and walking, a key component of this is the cycle to work scheme, which gives employees access to a new bicycle and cycling equipment through salary sacrifice.

As a result of these changes, REBA’s Professional Members have been asking what others are doing with their cycle to work scheme.

Question: Has any employer temporarily withdrawn your cycle to work scheme as a result of lockdown (employees not travelling to work and therefore potential change to the tax position)? We do not intend to for several reasons, but I would like to benchmark it.

rebaLINK: Cycle to work schemes and coronavirus

None of the respondents to this query said they had plans to withdraw the scheme, instead the majority were looking to actively encourage employees to take up the benefit as part of their return to work plans.

As one rebaLINK member noted: During Prime Minister's questions Boris Johnson told parliament that the near future “should be a new golden age for cycling”… I definitely will be encouraging our global real estate and facilities and HR teams to promote the cycle to work offering (and any changes) when we start to provide return to office guidelines.

Another member explained that they were already in the process of relaunching their scheme: Our scheme is closed at the moment as we are in the processing of extending it to allow employees to acquire a bike of up to £2k. This will mean that people can have a wider choice that includes Brompton bikes and electric bikes, which we feel will be particularly appealing given the future focus on cycling and walking to work rather than using public transport.

REBA’s other Professional Members who responded to this query added that they were now considering re-opening benefits windows to allow people to opt-in to the cycle to work scheme, while others are also relaunching their initiatives in a bid to encourage daily exercise and provide an alternative mode of transport.

REBA spoke with Adrian Warren, Chair of the Cycle to Work Alliance, who welcomed the government’s recognition of the role of the cycle to work scheme as an alternative to public transport.  

“In recent weeks we have seen significant interest in joining the scheme from employees across the UK, with people realising that this is a cost-effective and easy way to get a bike and cycling accessories,” commented Warren. “There has been a significant increase in enquiries to scheme providers and employee applications to join, as well as a surge in employers, particularly SMEs, registering. Since lockdown measures were introduced, there has been a doubling in the number of employers registering to offer the scheme to workers in comparison to the same period in 2019.”

He added that since lockdown began there has been a surge in uptake, with the number of employees using the scheme at some public sector organisations, including police forces and ambulance services, increasing by more than 200% compared to the same period in 2019.

It is abundantly clear, from the government’s investment in cycling infrastructure and employee interest, that cycling to work is likely to become more prevalent. The next step for employers is to ensure workplaces also offer facilities to enable this change of transport.

The author is Dawn Lewis, content editor at REBA.

REBA Professional Members can access rebaLINK via our website. It is a confidential forum for industry peers to ask questions about policies, suppliers and wider reward practices both for the UK and internationally. It provides access to a collective body of industry professionals and their expert knowledge. 

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