Belgium: General obligation to compensate employees for home-work commute by bicylce
On January 24, 2023, the social partners of the National Labor Council signed CBA No. 164 regarding the employer’s intervention in travel by bicycle between the home and the workplace. This collective bargaining agreement ensures that there is a general obligation for employers to provide compensation to employees who come to work by bicycle. Furthermore, it aims to encourage the use of sustainable means of transportation.
Employees in the private sector who regularly commute to work by bicycle will be entitled to a bicycle allowance starting 1 May 2023. Employees who commute to work by bicycle only occasionally are not entitled to an allowance. A bicycle is defined as a classic bike, a motorized bicycle (e-bike), or a speed pedelec. The latter two only qualify if they are electrically powered. It is not intended for scooters, hoverboards, roller skates, skateboards, monowheels, (electric) segways, among others. As these are motorized or non-motorized locomotion devices. The CBA lists examples to clarify who is entitled to a bicycle allowance e.g., if the employee commutes by bicycle from home to work at least once a week, this is considered a regular commute. The same applies to the employee who comes to work by bicycle during the summer. An employee who has a full-time annual train season ticket cannot receive compensation when he occasionally commutes to work by bicycle. Moreover, the bicycle may be used in combination with other means of transportation, but the same distance entitles the employee to only one reimbursement. Thus, an employee may receive reimbursement from his or her employer for any mode of transportation provided that those different reimbursements relate to either different portions of the commute or the same route (or the same portion thereof) traveled during different periods of the year. Furthermore, this collective bargaining agreement does not apply to commuting by bicycle between 1 May 2023 and 31 December 2023, by employees employed in the joint committees first constituted since 1 January 2020.
As of 1 May 2023, an employer is required to pay a bicycle allowance. Until 1 May 2023, an employer must pay a bicycle allowance only if a sectoral or company CBA requires it. Also, until 1 May 2023, employers can provide another arrangement and include it in a CBA. This can, for example, be a lower amount for a longer journey. The bicycle allowance is EUR 0.27 per kilometer and is exempt from taxes and social security contributions. This amount changes annually according to the evolution of index figures. This ensures that the amount of the bicycle allowance does not exceed the maximum exempt amount. Moreover, the distance cycled is limited to 20 kilometers one way. This allows the employer to grant a bicycle allowance for a maximum of 40 kilometers per day. The bicycle allowance is paid together with the employees’ wages.
Employers can invoke an exception rule because CBA No. 164 is a supplementary CBA. So, if a specific allowance for commuting by bicycle already exists at the sectoral or company level, the existing regulations will continue to apply. Thus, an employer can continue to pay a lower allowance, than the one provided in CBA No. 164. But if a bicycle allowance is granted in a company under an individual agreement with the employees or in the internal work rules, CBA No. 164 will precede and apply.
For an employee to be entitled to a bicycle allowance, several formalities must be completed. The employee must confirm in an honorary statement the number of commuting kilometers biked and the number of days biked in a month. The employer decides how often a statement on honour is required and how he will verify the data.
In the second half of 2024, the social partners who concluded the CBA will evaluate the implementation of the CBA and assess its impact in terms of promoting the use of bicycles for commuting, on workers’ health and on the number and severity of accidents on the way to work, as well as on the compensation measures planned by the government. These measures should help employers compensate for the financial impact of the generalization and the increase in bicycle allowances to be paid. One of the most important measures will presumably be that employers will be allowed to deduct these costs for their taxes.
- General arrangement for the employer to pay a bicycle allowance to employees who use a bicycle for commuting to work.
- Only employees who regularly commute to work by bicycle will be entitled to a bicycle allowance of 0.27 euros per kilometer from 1 May 2023, and this will be paid along with their wages. The distance is limited to a maximum of 40 km per day (20 km per trip).
- Employers who apply a different and/or lower allowance than the one in CBA No. 164 may continue to apply the current allowance. Until 1 May 2023, the employers con work out a different arrangement than the one in CBA No. 164.
- The employer determines how often an employee must complete a statement on honour and how he will verify it.