Employers neglect Cycle to Work scheme despite workers' commuting fears

22 June 2020 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

As the Covid-19 lock-down eases, employees are still uneasy about the health risks which come with public life. However, while more than half of employees would consider cycling to work to avoid cramped public transport; only 7% of employers are looking to help them do so by participating in the UK Government’s Cycle to Work Scheme.

With no Covid-19 vaccine in sight to shield workers from the pandemic, and the number of daily new cases in Britain still hovering around 1,000, a sizeable portion of the labour market feels that the easing of the UK’s lock-down is seeing them pushed back to work for the sake of the economy, while a significant health risk remains. According to a recent survey from communications consultancy BCW, 60% of staff expect to return to work will happen by the end of August, but are feeling uncomfortable, with around 45% of respondents said they were most concerned about bringing Covid-19 into their home.

In many workplaces, the two-metre social distancing rule is impractical, meaning the Government is now flirting with scrapping it in such circumstances. Meanwhile, the use of public transport has already spiked, and such measures would see it boom further, meaning many commuters would soon be placed in extremely close proximity to non-household members for extended periods of time – increasing their chances of being exposed to viruses.

Employers neglect Cycle to Work scheme despite workers' commuting fears

With many businesses returning to work, yet the Government still advising people to avoid public transport, global marketplace OnBuy.com surveyed more than 2,000 members of the public living in cities to find what their views were on the UK state’s Cycle to Work Scheme. What the study found was that while a growing number of staff would like to cycle to work to avoid public transport, most employers are not willing or able to help them do so.

Cycle to Work scheme allows employees to spend on bikes and equipment, tax-free, making a claimed saving of up to 42% on the overall value. It was previously believed that the maximum spend was £1,000, but the newest guidelines state that this is not the case, also confirming that e-bikes are not exempt.

According to OnBuy.com’s analysis, 53% of UK workers are now considering cycling to work, however just 7% of employers are looking to use the Cycle to Work Scheme to facilitate this. Of the workers who said they would like to cycle, comparatively, 89% said it was because they felt public transport is still unsafe to use – and the low number of business leaders helping them find other routes to work suggests they are being badly let down on this front.

The study found that a number of leaders might be inclined to change their tune, however. More than half said the scheme was too confusing to implement, suggesting that were the Government to issue clarified guidelines on the scheme’s use, more firms might take it up in the future.

Cas Paton, founder and CEO of OnBuy, commented, “While the Government is making an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus on buses and trains with things like the cycling scheme, businesses are clearly confused by their role in helping employees get to work safely, and the Government support available to help them do so.”

On top of this, while one-in-ten employers are planning to let staff continuing working from home to avoid public transport, the research found that another 23% of employers placed the burden of safety on their own staff. They stated that they would be asking staff to find alternatives where possible to avoid increasing the risk of spread at work – but would not necessarily be helping them to find such alternatives. Worse still, however, this suggests that around six-in-ten employers are considering ordering staff back to work, without factoring in their safety during their commute at all.

Aside from the health of their staff, employers are also making it harder for their workforce to save money during an economic crisis – something which may contribute to money-worries at work, and reduce productivity. The survey found that 21% of respondents said the cost savings associated with cycling were a top motivation to commute via bike. The average Brit spends £800 a year commuting to work, a figure which is even higher in London at £918 a year. On average, a commuter will therefore save £1,700 over three years by cycling to work, even if they were to purchase a new hybrid bike and invest in annual bike maintenance and accessories.

Paton concluded, “Cycling to work will not only have the immediate benefit of slowing the spread of coronavirus, but it can also save commuters money, improve fitness and help reduce our carbon footprint. It’s great to see so many people who have the option to cycle are now considering it.”