Lots of businesses are now getting on board with the eco-zeitgeist and actively want to do as much as they can to help their environment, reduce their carbon footprint and help employees to reduce theirs. One of the ways in which this can be achieved is by encouraging workers to cycle to work.
Since 2011, the UK government has put in place a downloadable implementation guide for employers who wish to help their workers cycle to work instead of taking the car. This guide gives useful information on how setting up a cycle to work scheme can benefit employers. There is no doubt that cycling brings huge benefits to individuals including improvements to health and a healthy workforce is a more motivated workforce. So what steps as an employer can you take to encourage your employees to participate in a cycle to work scheme and what kind of changes would you need to implement?
Help for Beginners
One of the first things you should do is find out exactly how many of your workers are enthusiastic for the scheme, plus how many are experienced cyclists and how many are not; find out how many have access to cycles and how many don’t. It could be that some people would love the idea of cycling to work but perhaps haven’t been on a bicycle in many years and don’t currently own their own bike. Absolute beginners can take part in cycle training run by a local authority-backed scheme called Bikeability. These are run all around the country. Some like the idea of cycling to work but worry that their fitness levels are not sufficient. For these people there are a couple of solutions at hand.
Sustrans (www.sustrans.org.uk/) is an organisation which gives very good advice for beginners worried about getting on a bike and how to cope with things like traffic and how to build up fitness and stamina levels.
Schemes such as Bike to Work or Cycle to Work are excellent vehicles through which workers are able to obtain a new bicycle and spread the cost by paying in monthly instalments through their salary providing their employer has registered for the scheme. The Finance Act 1999 provides details of tax exemptions regarding the loan of cycles and cycling equipment. The employer purchases the bicycle(s) tax-free and the employee effectively loans the bike, paying this off, before tax, through their monthly salary. There are tax benefits for both the employee and the employer so it’s a winner all round.
Secure Parking Needed
A new bike can be an expensive purchase. Indeed, one bought through the government-backed Cycle to Work scheme for instance can cost anything up to £1000 but even an older bicycle would cost quite a lot to replace if stolen. Some bicycles have expensive modifications added such as comfort seats, uprated brakes, lights or pedals plus a host of personalised add-ons. In addition to the shock of coming out of work to find your bike gone, there is then the issue of how to get home at the end of the day; a taxi home could be an unwelcome extra expense and public transport may not be a viable option.
It goes without saying then that if your employees are to be encouraged to cycle to work you as an employer must take steps to ensure there is somewhere well-lit and very secure for them to leave their bikes. This means covered and secured bike parking which is sited as close to the work premises as possible and preferably within20-30 metres. Bicycle parking spaces should preferably include ground anchors where a lock can be safely and securely attached and should ideally be covered so that employees aren’t standing in the rain getting soaked while trying to park their bike. Parking spaces should be easy to use and bike stands should be robust enough to support bikes and spaced well enough apart that bikes aren’t crammed together. No-one wants to see their expensive machine damaged.
Some kind of surveillance will be needed either CCTV or by siting the bike parking where it can easily be seen by employees throughout the day.
The perfect bike park could be sited indoors; perhaps in a little-used or not needed area of the premises? Wall hooks for hanging bikes on are an excellent space-saving solution. The best bicycle locks are those which are the hardest to cut through but can be expensive. Perhaps you could approach a local bicycle shop with a view to discount hiring or purchasing bike locks in bulk?
Wherever you place your cycle parking it should be easily accessible for able-bodied and disabled alike and it should comply with Disability Discrimination legislation. It should not be placed where it becomes an obstruction.
Showers and Lockers
It is a certain fact that nobody wants to arrive at their place of work in a state of agitation, dripping with sweat and caked in road grime only to then have to spend the rest of the day in the same state. Having encouraged your workforce to embrace cycling to work you need to ensure they can start their day feeling clean and tidy again. This means offering shower and changing facilities. Many places already do this for the increasing number of people who like to jog, walk or cycle to work and those who use a gym or take some form of exercise during lunch hours or other downtime.
How can providing shower facilities benefit you as an employer you may well ask? Those employees who cycle into work will be able to work more productively when they feel clean and refreshed. The availability of showers will also mean that those who wish to take up lunchtime exercise can do so and those who plan to go out straight after work can happily work extra time knowing they can shower and change. All this leads to a happier, healthier, more productive workforce with less absenteeism.
Workplace lockers are incredibly useful for cycling employees to be able to safely stash away their cycling gear instead of having to leave it scattered around the office getting in everybody’s way and causing a trip hazard. During the winter months it’s a huge advantage being able to store wet clothing in an area where they can dry out ready for the journey back home.
Encourage Sociability and Cohesion
On the whole cycling can be, by its very nature a solitary activity. To encourage employee cohesion you could encourage them to set up a workplace cycle user group and perhaps set aside an hour a week or month to allow them to hold meetings in the workplace. If this is not feasible perhaps you could allow them to use company email or the workplace notice board to post information. They could get together to discuss things like the best traffic-free cycling routes to and from work or arrange a buddy scheme between them where more experienced cyclists could mentor beginners and more nervous cyclists. As the group grows in stature and confidence they could swap ideas and tips about bike maintenance or weekend rides and get-togethers. You may even find that your employees become more friendly, cooperative and open with each other both in and out of work.
A workplace cycle user group can be a great asset to any company when they are headed by a worker who is a keen cyclist and who is interested in encouraging as many others as possible to use their bikes to get to work and ditch their cars. It could be an idea to approach one or two employees who you know regularly use their bikes to get to work and broaching the subject of forming a group with them. Who knows, they may already have thought about doing this and are just waiting for permission from you.
Employers’ Legal Obligations?
It is recommended that insurance is taken out to protect any bicycles used to get to and from work, but this is regarded as the responsibility of the employee rather than the employer. When an employer participates in the Cycle to Work scheme and an employee purchases a new bicycle through the tax-free loan scheme this is referred to as salary sacrifice because they agree to give up part of their salary in order to purchase a cycle. The salary sacrifice and loan agreement are subject to the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and an employer may need to be issued with a consumer credit license by the Financial Conduct Authority. Employers should also ensure their scheme is administered correctly according to HMRC regulations.
To sum up….
It makes great sense to become a cycle-friendly employer from a tax point of view and an environmentally-conscious point of view. If more employers encourage cycling to work the reduction in congestion helps to reduce costs to business with fewer delays due to traffic and lower mileage costs overall. And when there are fewer employees using cars to get to work this means less expensive real estate has to be allocated for car parking either on or off-site.
One of the greatest benefits to employer and worker alike comes with the improvement in employee health and well-being and the knock-on effect in the increase in morale and productiveness. You should also see less absenteeism through sickness in a fitter and healthier workforce.
And finally, what better way is there to boost your corporate image and burnish your environmentally-responsible credentials than encouraging your employees to cycle to work, particularly if you are seeking ISO14001 certification or looking to convince local and national government of your commitment to social and environmental concerns.