5 frequently asked questions about employees’ meal allowance
The amendment to the Labor Code effective as of 1 March 2021 introduced the long-awaited possibility of providing employees with a financial contribution for meals instead of meal vouchers or meal cards.
However, this new legislation has brought several issues and application ambiguities. Therefore, most companies have applied the transitional period until the end of 2021 and have postponed introduction of the financial contributions. The financial contrition appears as a less favourable option in many areas.
The Financial Administration issued an extensive methodological guideline on this topic last week. The methodological guideline goes beyond the scope of the legislation in several areas and attempts to cover the unclear issues. These include e.g. financial contribution for an employee during a sick leave, vacation, or contributions for persons having other types of work relationship than an employment contract (e.g. mandate agreements or other agreements). It is very likely, that the Labour Code will be subject to an additional amendment with respect to the financial contributions until the end of this year.
We answer you the five most frequently asked questions, which we usually face in terms of employees’ meal allowances. The answers were prepared based on the currently available information, which, however, may change until end of this year.
1. Are all employers obliged to allow their employees to choose the form of meals?
In general, this obligation applies to all employers who do not provide meals in their own canteen or in another employer's canteen. Thus, the provision of hot meals continues to take the precedence. The financial contribution should be an alternative to meal vouchers or electronic meal vouchers (meal cards).
2. Can an employer contribute to meal from the Social fund without any limitation? Is there a difference in case of financial contribution and meal vouchers?
According to current interpretations, it is possible to make the contributions from the Social fund in case of both options (financial contributions as well as meal vouchers) in an unlimited amount. The entire contribution from the Social fund is exempted from taxation in hands of the employees.
3. The employer provides meal vouchers, i.e. financial contribution to its employees in the amount of 5 EUR (2.81 EUR contribution according to § 152 of the Labor Code, 1 EUR contribution from the Social fund, 1.19 EUR voluntary contribution of the employer). Is it possible to consider both forms as exempt income of the employee in full amount?
The meal voucher would be exempted in full amount for the employee. The financial contribution would be exempted only up to the amount of EUR 3.81 (i.e. EUR 2.81+ EUR 1) and the remaining EUR 1.19 would be subject to tax and contributions on side of the employee. The employer would also have to pay contributions from this amount.
4. To what extent would the amounts from the previous example be considered as tax deductible expense for the employer?
If the employer provides a meal voucher, EUR 1.19 from the above example would be a tax non-deductible expense. The financial contribution would be considered a tax-deductible expense in full, as EUR 1.19 was already taxed on the side of the employee. However, several conditions must be met (agree its amount in written, non-discrimination of the financial contribution or meal voucher in terms of the amounts, etc.).
5. Is an employee performing work from home and teleworking entitled to meal allowance?
Yes, if he works more than 4 hours per day. Such an employee should be able to choose between a meal voucher and financial contribution in the same way as employees working from the employer's premises.
Both employees and employers are concerned about many questions in this area. The main issues need to be covered in the employer's internal regulation, which should list all the options and methods of employees’ choice, as well as solve possible problematic situations.
We will be happy to advise you in this area and draft your internal regulation regarding financial contribution if you wish so.