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Annie Hayes



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Pedalling towards healthier employee benefits


Cycling in Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire

The Government’s Green Travel Plan was introduced in an effort to reduce car usage and promote healthier methods of travelling to work.

In line with this initiative a tax efficient benefit has been introduced allowing employers to lend or hire bicycles and cycle safety equipment to employees without incurring any costs for tax or National Insurance.

A staggering eight out of ten people in the UK own a bike and surveys indicate that many more would actually use their bicycle to get to work if their employer made suitable facilities and incentives available.

Stuart Pembery, programme development director at Futuremedia, urges businesses to take advantage of a benefit that will not only significantly improve their employee benefits offering but will also help to reduce staff stress and increase fitness levels which are major contributors for absenteeism in the workplace.

Unlikely as it may seem the best place for employees to look for discount on a new bike could be their employer. By signing up to the bike vouchers scheme, employees can purchase cycles for up to 50% less than standard high street prices, through salary sacrifice. Providing the employer is VAT registered and the employee uses the bike for business, the employer can also benefit from recovering VAT on the bike.

Cycling to work is an excellent way for employees to fit regular exercise into their daily schedule. Research shows that riding a bike to work has significant health benefits. A heart study in Denmark found that regular cycling protected people from heart disease and those who did not cycle to work experienced a 39 per cent higher mortality rate than those who did. A fitter workforce also helps to increase wellbeing, improve productivity and reduce absenteeism in the work place – an issue than many businesses experience and often struggle to control.

But health is not the only consideration. The environmental impact of driving a car to work is a never-ending problem. According to figures from the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders in 2004, new cars in the UK emitted an average of 171.4gCO2/km, higher than the European average.

The main cause of transport related air pollution is slow moving traffic in town centres. With the majority of this pollution coming from vehicles travelling to work or on business, the amount of harmful car emissions could be significantly reduced if more people cycled to work.

The benefits to both employers and employees are clear – reduced staff sickness and increased morale, congested streets, rising air pollution, lack of parking space, parking charges and the ever increasing cost of fuel are all strong reasons to make cycling a realistic mode of transport.

Provided bike voucher schemes are communicated properly to employees and local governments allow for more cycle-friendly environments, it will contribute significantly to creating a healthy work-life balance within both large and small organisations in the UK while being a positive move for business productivity not to mention, the environment.

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Annie Hayes


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