Leading business and cycling groups call for lower earner and self-employed access to the Cycle to Work scheme

Business groups and cycling advocates have joined forces to call for an expansion to the popular Cycle to Work scheme, which would unlock access for workers earning at or near national minimum wage (NMW) and the self-employed. The call, which has been sent to the Chancellor, has been backed by groups including the Co-Op, Federation of Small Businesses and British Cycling.

The Cycle to Work scheme is already a hugely popular and highly effective initiative, and millions of people have participated to benefit from substantial savings on the cost of a new bike and cycling equipment, as well as the ability to pay the cost off over a longer period. However, the scheme guidance in place and rules around NMW currently prevent the self-employed and those on low incomes from participating. This locks out millions of potential users, including many who would have among the most to gain from joining.

A survey undertaken by the Cycle to Work Alliance in 2021 found that a third of employees who had not previously participated in the scheme said this was because their income was too low, which prevented them from participating. A further 1 in 10 of these said it was because they were self-employed, meaning they could not access the scheme.

Paul Caudwell, Health Wellbeing Manager at the Co-operative Group, said “We’re Co-operating for a fairer world which includes doing what we can to make things fairer for our colleagues. The current legislation surrounding cycle to work schemes prevents us from giving our lower-paid keyworker colleagues access the same level of financial incentive, using a salary sacrifice arrangement, to use our cycle to work scheme. I believe that the legislation must change to allow a salary sacrifice arrangement to be able to reduce pay below the National Minimum Wage. This would make the incentives for using a salary sacrifice scheme more equitable for all of our colleagues and increase take-up of our cycle to work scheme.”

The changes have also received backing from Labour’s shadow ministerial team. Gill Furniss MP, Shadow Roads Minister, has voiced her and the Labour Party’s support for the changes to the Cycle to Work scheme.

She writes: “The Cycle to Work scheme has been shown to make bikes more affordable and accessible to a wide range of people. They have a proven track record of encouraging those who have not cycled before to take up active travel. This delivers such a wide range of benefits, including improving people’s physical and mental health, improving air quality and easing congestion on our roads. There is no path to net-zero without green transport and it is vital Ministers do more to encourage people to cycle to work, increase access and take-up of this popular scheme.”

During the pandemic, the scheme played a particularly important role in getting more people cycling to work.
• Between March and September 2020, Alliance members saw an increase of nearly 60% in new scheme joiners compared to the same period in 2019.
• The scheme has been played a key role for key workers in particular throughout the pandemic. In the capital alone, London Ambulance Service saw a 111% increase in new scheme participants in 2020 from the previous year. New scheme joiners were also up 67% in the Metropolitan Police, and 47% among Transport for London’s (TfL) workforce.

The Alliance – formed of the five largest providers of the Cycle to Work Scheme (Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles, Halfords and Vivup) – published its policy report in 2021, which highlighted why changes to the scheme were needed to open it up to lower earners and the self-employed.

As part of steps to protect workers who opt to take their pay below NMW by joining the scheme, Alliance members will introduce a series of ‘safeguarding mechanisms’ to ensure the process remains clear and transparent. Safeguards include integrating cost calculators within the application process and a verification step to the application process, requiring applicants to confirm they have used the cost calculator and are aware that salary sacrifice payments could bring them below NMW.

The letter, coordinated by the Cycle to Work Scheme Alliance, has been sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, with Trudy Harrison MP, Cycling Minister at the DfT, Paul Scully MP, Minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Lucy Frazer MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in copy. The full list of signatories includes: British Cycling, Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals, Co-operative Group, Cycling UK, Federation of Small Businesses, Forum of Private Business, The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, and the Cycle to Work Scheme Alliance.

For information please contact: Kathryn Evans (kathrynevans@wacomms.co.uk or 07715 644547).

Notes:
1. The Cycle to Work Alliance is a policy-focused coalition of the five largest providers of the Cycle to Work scheme: Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles, Halfords and Vivup. Together, we represent around 80% of the Cycle to Work scheme market and since 2010, we have worked hard collaboratively to highlight the benefits of regularly cycling to work.
2. The data referenced was collected in a survey conducted by the Cycle to Work Alliance in May 2021, using a representative sample of 1,033 UK adults who are in employment.