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In the first part of our mini blog series we discussed the training plan you are required to introduce for your employees in Belgium before 31 March. In this second blog, we will zoom in on the biking allowance which was introduced recently.

Although we are not quite at the level of the Dutch (the Dutch will cycle to their own wedding, so to speak), using the bike for the daily commute has become increasingly popular in Belgium in recent years, especially with the rise of e-bikes and speed pedelecs. Employers are already obliged to contribute to their employees’ public transport costs and a number of sectors had included travelling by bike in the list of means of transport qualifying for such support. On January 24 this year the social partners of the National Labour Council signed a collective agreement (CLA No. 164 or “the CLA”) to extend this provision across all sectors and so to provide a positive cash incentive to take to 2 wheels (and presumably also 1 or 3, depending on your skill level and just how foolish or weird you are prepared to look for the good of the environment).The bicycle allowance is EUR 0.27 per kilometer ridden and is exempt from taxes and social security contributions. This amount will change annually roughly in line with inflation. The compensated distance is limited to 20 kilometers each way. The allowance is paid every month in arrears together with the employees’ wages.

As of 1 May 2023, employees in the private sector who “regularly” (as opposed to occasionally) commute to work by bicycle will be entitled to a bicycle allowance based on distance travelled. The CLA covers not just the trusty old human-powered steed, but also e-bikes and speed pedelecs. So when does commuting by bicycle become “regular”?. At least once a week is regular, as is cycling during the summer months even if you let the train take the strain in winter. The CLA also specifies that the pre-condition of regularity should not stand in the way of employees testing this new means of transportation. That means in effect that so long as you genuinely intend to do the right thing and pedal your way to work, you can claim and are not retrospectively disqualified from the allowance if you then find that in fact most regularly you just can’t be bothered (at least for a limited trial period).

Different means of transportation may be combined (and partly financed by the employer) provided that those different allowances relate to either different parts of the commuting journey, or the same journey (or the same part thereof) travelled at different periods of the year. To give an example: if the employee already has a season ticket for the train, he cannot combine this with a biking allowance for the same period and same distance. But if that same employee takes his bike on the train and travel the last couple of miles from the train station to the office in the saddle, this separate distance may also be reimbursed, and the same if he cycles that last leg in summer but get the bus in winter.

CLA nr. 164 is a supplementary CLA, which has two consequences:

  • Until 1 May 2023, employers can provide another arrangement and include it in a CLA. This arrangement may be a lower amount/km for a longer journey, for example.
  • If a biking allowance already exists at the sectoral or company level in a collective labour agreement, the existing rules will continue to apply, even if they are less advantageous.

A few popular joint committees introduced a biking allowance a while ago. Examples include:

Joint Committee Allowance Minimum distance Maximum distance
200 (Mixed) 0.20 €/km   40 km
118 (Food – blue-collars) 220 (White-collars) 0.24 €/km / /
140.3 (Logistics – blue-collars) 226 (White-collars) 0.24 €/km 1 km /
111 (Metal works – blue-collars) 209 (White collars) 0.18 €/km   7.2 € per day A minimum of 1 € per day applies for a distance of less than 5 km

To determine the amount of the allowance, the employee must complete and sign a statement indicating the distance he travels by bicycle between his home and the place of employment, as well as the number of cycling days per month. How often that statement is updated and how its truth are checked are both questions for the employer to determine, provided of course that it stays within the boundaries on employee monitoring and privacy set by the general law. At one level, the sums involved per the average employee are so small that it will be tempting not to check or to make the employee re-affirm his position more than, say, quarterly at most. Against that, given the favourable tax treatment of the payment, tax authorities and the Social Security Service will require that you have at least superficial over-sight of who is doing what level and distance of cycling in any given month. If the employee gets a one-off lift to work because it is raining heavily on his normal “biking day”, that would be unlikely to be of interest to either employer or tax authorities. However, if the lift becomes the regular means of getting to work, that would be a different question and one entitling the employer to seek a fresh statement from the employee reflecting his changed arrangements and to adjust the allowance accordingly.

We shall have to see what incidental questions this generates for employers in due course. Here are some starters to address another time: (i) if summer brings the expected influx of sweating and purple cyclists panting into your workplace, what obligations will there be to provide showers and/or changing rooms?; (ii) will there be any further or more useful guidance around what constitutes “regular”, given how integral it is to the operation of the scheme and its tax breaks?; (iii) is the employer under any legal, moral or ESG-driven duty to provide secure storage and/or charging points for bicycles and e-bikes?

As the days are getting longer again and temperatures warmer, you may see more of your people willing to risk their neck for EUR 0.27 per kilometer and so more requests coming in for the payment of the biking allowance. If you have any further questions about this allowance or other payments that Belgian law requires you to make, please do not hesitate to reach out.