Does your employee occasionally come to work by train? Know that in March 2023, the Belgian railway company (NMBS/SNCB) introduced the Flex Pass. This new, flexible subscription formula responds to the increased importance of teleworking. The transport subscription allows employees to flexibly travel to their workplace a few days a week. In this article, we discuss if/how you as an employer should contribute in the cost of commuting by train with this Flex Pass.
How does the Flex Pass work?
The new Flex Pass is only available digitally via the NMBS app and consists of different formulas. The employee can opt for an annual subscription and then travel 80 or 120 days by train within a 12-month period. The employee can also opt for a monthly formula and then take the train for 6 or 10 days a month. These formulas amount to an average traveling of 2-3 days per week, of which the days can be freely chosen by the employee. For example, the employee can come to work every day one week and no day the following week.
Each time the employee uses the subscription, the day must be selected in the app for the train attendant to scan it via a QR code.
What is the difference with a half-time train subscription?
The half-time subscription is made for those who work half-time and is less flexible than the Flex Pass. A half-time subscription is taken out for a period of just 15 days. During this period, an employee can travel the same route back and forth 5 times.
Should the employer contribute in the cost of the train Flex Pass?
As with full-time train subscriptions, the general principle applies that the employer should compensate the employee for the cost of purchasing the train subscription from the 1st kilometer onwards.
How much you, as an employer, have to pay for this Flex Pass depends on the Joint Industrial Committee (sector) under which your company falls and the collective labour agreements concluded in your sector:
- Your sector can stipulate that you should make use of a third-party payer agreement whereby you as an employer pay a contribution of 80% of the actual price of the train subscripion to the train company and the state pays the remaining 20%.
- Your sector can provide that the employer’s contribution is equal to a percentage of the actual train fares.
- Your sector does not stipulate anything or refers to the general minimum regulation provided for by the National Labour Council regarding the contribution to commuting costs.
For your information: A collective labour agreement was concluded within the National Labour Council that determines the employer’s contribution based on lump sums. These amounts correspond to an average of 70% of train ticket prices in 2019. The amounts have remained unchanged since 1 July 2019, and are thus not the actual train fares. All employers are subject to this minimum contribution set by the National Labour Council. Sectors can therefore stipulate that the minimum employer’s intervention is higher.
This general minimum regulation determined by the National Labour Council in 2019, refers only to the following subscriptions for the reimbursement: monthly railcard, quarterly railcard, annual railcard and half-time railcard. There is no column that regulates the reimbursement for the new Flex Pass. One could therefore take into account the “half-time railcard” column for the reimbursement of the Flex Pass, but there is ambiguity in this regard. Therefore it remains to be seen until the National Labour Council takes an official position on this.
Do you want additional information on commuting reimbursements by other means of transport? Find out more here.