Leading employers have punctured the government’s new cycle-to-work campaign, claiming the scheme is difficult to run and unpopular with staff.
Transport secretary Andrew Adonis last week urged employers to make the cycle-to-work scheme, which enables employees to buy bikes and equipment tax-free, a key part of their reward and benefits strategy.
Just 3% of the working population currently bike to work, but Adonis told Personnel Today that the figure could treble if employers guaranteed on site changing facilities, repair services and bike parks as part of a new cycle-to-work ‘guarantee’.
However, HR professionals have criticised the scheme for having complex rules, and for its low take-up among staff.
Ann Pickering, HR director at communications giant O2, which began offering the scheme last year, told Personnel Today: “Compared with other flexible benefits we offer, such as childcare vouchers, purchasing additional holidays and our Learning Fund, the benefit has had limited success.
“However, cycling to work is not for everyone.”
Pickering called for the government to simplify the guidelines for employers implementing the scheme.
“The most challenging aspect of the cycle-to-work scheme is the administration of the plan and the complexity of the rules surrounding it.
“Explaining to employees that they are leasing a bike for a set period and then have the option to buy it for a fair market value is a difficult message to get across,” she said.
Leigh Lafever-Ayer, corporate HR manger at Enterprise Rent-a-car, agreed that the scheme lacked popularity “by some way” compared to other benefits.
If there was a proven link between providing on site amenities and take-up of the scheme the firm would be open to additional support from the government to improve changing areas, she said.
“However, with 330 branches across the UK, it may be unrealistic to provide showering facilities, for example, at each location.”
Commentators on Personnel Today’s community forum HRspace were also less supportive of the cycle-to-work scheme.
Rodeo posted: “The scheme is difficult to run and administer with its current interpretation of eligibility criteria. This will make employers think twice before opening a scheme.”
Other employers were more optimistic that the cycle-to-work scheme had made a valid contribution to their benefits packages.
Patricia Robinson, vice-president of HR at technology firm Trend Micro, said: “We have just launched the cycle-to-work scheme in the UK and it was very well received by our employees.”
However, she added that the government should help with funding on site amenities.
Adonis said the cycle-to-work guarantee had already attracted support from 70 major employers, including broadcaster BSkyB, energy firm E.on, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and numerous local authorities.
He said he hoped this would encourage other employers to adopt the “inexpensive” scheme, and said a new website had been created to guide employers through implementation.
About 15% of GSK’s employees now cycle to work, a three-fold increase since it introduced the guarantee.
“Only a small minority of employers offer the scheme,” Adonis said.
“What we’re seeking to do is sign large employers up to offer a guarantee to their staff [that they also offer] a bike park, changing facilities, a bike repair service and training.”