New report urges Government to widen access to Cycle to Work scheme

Posted - April 8, 2021

A new report published on 8 April, 2021 by the Cycle to Work Alliance, made up of the five largest providers of the Cycle to Work Scheme, is calling on the government to widen access to the scheme. 

The Cycle to Work scheme has encouraged hundreds of thousands more people to cycle to work every day, with significant benefits for the environment, wellbeing, road congestion, and workplace productivity. Over the course of the pandemic, the scheme has played a critical role in helping key workers to safely commute to work.

As employees across the country return to the office, cycling will be a healthier, safer, and more cost-effective option for many. The Alliance wants to ensure as much of the UK workforce can benefit from cycling to work and a regular active commute. 

The new report urges the Government to widen access to the scheme to ensure it is accessible for as many people as possible. 

- Lower earners are among the hardest impacted by constant increases to public transport fares and so have most to gain from the scheme. Yet National Minimum Wage rules mean that employers cannot enter workers into salary sacrifice arrangements that bring their pay below NMW.  

- Another key group currently unable to benefit are the self-employed, who make up a significant part of the country’s workforce. Often, they are doing many of the same jobs as PAYE employees and still need to travel to a place of work. 

- SMEs, whilst currently able to participate, have historically been put off by a perceived burden associated with running the scheme. This outdated myth all too often prevents small businesses and their staff from reaping the full rewards of active commuting through the Cycle to Work scheme. 

The report lays out three recommendations for the Government to broaden access to these three key groups of the UK workforce.

1. HMRC should include the cost of a bike as an allowable expense on self-employed workers’ self-assessment, to ensure all workers can participate regardless of their employment status.

2. Government should introduce a specific exemption for the Cycle to Work scheme, allowing employers to enter staff into a salary sacrifice arrangement for the specific purpose of obtaining a bike and safety accessories through the scheme, even if it brings their take-home pay below NMW.

3. All stakeholders with an interest in the scheme, including government, the small business community, and the Alliance, should work together to understand the barriers to participation for small businesses, and the practical steps that can be taken to increase participation.

"As the UK workforce makes a tentative return to the office, cycling will be an even more attractive means of commuting post-pandemic. The benefits of cycling are far-reaching, not just for employees’ mental and physical health, but also for the environment and UK productivity. By making a few small changes to the scheme’s current rules, the millions more people would be able to access it, encouraging a greater culture of active, carbon-free commuting across the UK," - Adrian Warren, Chair, Cycle to Work Alliance. 

See the report here.

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