Commuting costs are higher than ever before, and businesses must act. Sustainable travel promotions, including salary sacrifice schemes, can save your employees thousands of pounds each year, but many companies aren’t taking advantage of them.

Here are details of five sustainable travel schemes, including how they work and how they can save employees serious amounts while improving sustainability.

Why salary sacrifice schemes are essential

During the Covid pandemic, workers saved an estimated £300 by cutting out the commute. Today, organisations are pushing for a return to work, with official statistics showing that two-thirds of adults now travel to work at least once a week.

Inflation is increasing, caused by global instability and competition for resources. This is pushing the cost of commuting higher than ever. Petrol prices are at an all-time high, and rail passengers are being hit with the highest rises in almost a decade.

So, what can employers do?

There are several ways businesses can reduce the burden on employees. Salary sacrifice schemes and loans are tax-efficient and can reduce the impact on wallets. Investing in pool bikes and promoting sustainable transport alternatives, such as Cycle to Work schemes, can help to reduce commuting, congestion, and carbon emissions.

In the end, anything that can help staff cut commuting costs should be considered. Here are 5 ways every business can support staff.

Sustainable travel schemes

1. Pool bikes

During the coronavirus pandemic, Halfords donated bikes to the NHS, which staff could use to travel through its hire network. NHS workers could experience the benefits of biking to work or between offices without worrying about the cost.

Offering staff access to a pool bike reduces risk, cuts costs, and promotes a healthier way to travel. In fact, Cycling UK lists four key benefits to pool bikes:

  1. Reduced travel costs and time
  2. An increase in employees using active travel, which is beneficial for health and wellbeing
  3. Reduced demand for car parking
  4. A good corporate social responsibility tool

There’s an initial up-front investment to buy pool bikes and cars, and an ongoing commitment and responsibility to maintain them. However, in the long run, this investment will pay you back.

If you’re interested, Transport for London has produced a great guide on how to set up a pool bike scheme for business.

2. Cycle to Work

Cycle to Work is a government initiative which offers the most cost-effective way to get new cycling equipment. Instead of paying for a new bike upfront, staff can spread the cost over 12 or 18 months. As well as purchasing a brand-new bike, they can also use the interest-free loan to pay for essential accessories such as a lock or helmet.

Staff can save up to 47% on the retail price of the bike, with deductions taken from their wages before they are paid to them. Previously the Cycle to Work scheme had an upper limit of £1000. However, following the updated guidance in June 2019, employers now have the flexibility to set whatever limit they choose for their employees. This provides riders with greater choice, including the opportunity to buy an e-bike!

Your organisation will need to sign-up for the Cycle to Work scheme. If you’re interested in Cycle to Work for your employees, contact our Halfords For Business team.

3. Car maintenance schemes

Car maintenance costs are a huge burden, with the average annual MOT and service costing almost £200.

A car maintenance salary sacrifice scheme enables staff to spread the cost of the annual MOT, servicing, repairs and even tyre replacement over 12 months. The money is deducted from the employee’s wage packet, meaning savings of up to 13.25% for standard rate taxpayers.

Staff can choose to have the work carried out at one of Halfords’ 300 garages, located across the UK, or by one of the Halfords Mobile Expert technicians.

Car maintenance schemes help staff pay for essential repairs and provide peace of mind that their vehicles are safe and ready for the road.

4. Subsidised servicing

It’s important for bikes to be maintained by a professional, but with a full bike service often costing the same as a car service, many of us choose to put it off. Instead, employers can support staff through subsidised bike servicing, helping to fix minor engineering issues at work.

Bristol’s Dr Bike, for example, provides pop-up servicing and repair at workplaces. Most minor repairs can be fixed on the spot by an experienced engineer, with more extensive repairs available at a price. As well as repairing regularly used bikes, staff are encouraged to bring in broken bikes, with the engineers able to bring them back to life. Check and see if someone local to you offers the same service.

5. Prioritise public transport

Almost half (46%) of every journey is for work, UK Government statistics show. Shifting just some of these journeys from cars to public transport could positively impact the planet.

Companies have several ways to support staff with transport costs, including: 

  • providing season tickets for employees
  • reimbursing season ticket costs to employees
  • offering loans to employees to buy season tickets
  • making contributions to subsidised or free public bus transport

The choices you make will depend on your organisation and, when it comes to public transport, your location. Before deciding on a scheme, speak to your staff and learn how they travel to ensure your investment has the biggest impact.

Build benefits around people

Every business is different, and the key is to build benefits around people. Listen to your staff and learn from their concerns before designing a suitable support package.

Many businesses already offer several sustainable transport schemes, but their staff don’t know about them or don’t think they’re eligible. So, when introducing staff benefits, you must communicate them to all staff effectively – something we’ve written more about in a previous post.

While employees can’t solve the financial crisis, they can soften the blow by helping to reduce the cost of commuting. Salary sacrifice schemes are considered a staff benefit by HMRC and will have tax implications for the organisation and the individual, which you’ll need to discuss with your finance team.

The cost of living crisis: What can businesses do to help employees?

As prices rise, employers have a duty to help employees – but it also makes good business sense. At Halfords, we offer all staff incentives and support as we recognise the critical role in recruiting and retaining the best retail talent.

Our HR team is recognised for its innovative approach to recognising and rewarding staff. In a free webinar, Halfords HR and Reward experts describe successful employee engagement strategies you can use to retain and recruit staff.

You’ll learn how introducing employee benefits, and salary sacrifice schemes can cut travel costs, saving employees thousands of pounds every year. In addition, we’ll show you how sustainable travel schemes can support flexible working and attract talent in a competitive marketplace.