Business and cycling groups have called on the government to reform the work scheme from its cycle so that it can be used by low-paid and self-employed workers, arguing that they often need it the most.
Launched more than 20 years ago and used by over one million people, the scheme allows users to pay tax-free installments from their pay for a bicycle and accessories, saving them between 25% and 40%.
But the long-term rule is that it is not available to, or close to, those who earn the minimum wage, or who do not pay income tax on a wage-allowance basis.
In a letter to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, on Monday, groups including the Federation of Small Businesses, Co-ops and British Cycling called for a change, arguing that low-income people are the most vulnerable to rising prices. Travel is a must have, for any Affiliate, promoting any program.
“People with the lowest wages in our community are feeling the effects of higher inflation than higher wages, and rising travel costs are adding to their worries,” the letter said.
“They often have no choice but to work from home and are forced to move to work. The Bicycle to Work scheme has the potential to open up equitable access to cycling and provide an affordable solution for many workers in this group. The scheme is a proven way for more people to ride bicycles, and we believe that those with the lowest incomes should also benefit. “
Self-employed individuals represent more than 13% of the UK labor market, the letter added, adding that a ratio that was expected to increase and was unfairly excluded.
Data collected by the Bicycle to Work Alliance, comprising of the five largest bike providers under the scheme, including Halford and Evans Bicycle, shows that demand has increased due to changes in travel patterns during the Covid crisis, especially for key workers.
At the peak of the epidemic, from March to September 2020, coalition members recorded a 60% increase in people using the scheme over the same period in 2019, with further increases for London Ambulance Service and Metropolitan Police personnel.
Expanding the scope of the scheme will help the government commit more people to cycling, the letter argues, and help prevent post-Covid types of travel from becoming more car-oriented.
Currently, the scheme does not allow people to sign up if contributions from their salary for bikes fall below their minimum wage, even if switching to bike travel could still mean net savings.
The Coalition promised that if changes were made, retailers would ensure that applicants’ costs were calculated correctly and that their net wages would now be below the minimum wage.
The change is supported by Labor. Shadow Roads Minister Gil Farnis said: “There is no net-zero way without green transport and ministers are doing more to encourage cycling, increasing access and adoption in this popular project.”
Paul Codwell, co-op group’s health wellbeing manager, said it was a mistake to deprive low-wage workers of access to the scheme: Below the national minimum wage. This will make it more equitable for all of our colleagues to use the waiver scheme and increase the adoption of our cycle work scheme. “