The amendment to the Labour Code effective as of 1 March 2021 is introducing changes in the meals and boarding provided to employees. From 1 March on, employees will be able to decide between meal vouchers (also known as gastro tickets) and a financial contribution for meals, which should be bound to the purpose of employee meal provision. The right to choose applies only to employees to whom the employer does not provide meals in its own or subcontracted canteen.
Employees can apply with their employer for a financial contribution starting from 1 March 2021 only; any applications submitted before this date should be disregarded by the employer. The employee shall be bound by his or her choice for a period of the next 12 months from the date of making the decision.
An employer which, before 1 March 2021 or in the period between 1 March 2021 and 31 December 2021, entered into a contract for the provision of meal vouchers with a legal entity or a natural person authorized to arrange catering services, shall not be obliged to provide its employees with the choice between a meal voucher and a financial contribution for meals right after 1 March 2021. However, this employer will have to make arrangements to comply by 31 December 2021. This transitional provision in the legislation allows employers to decide whether, from the effective date of the amendment introducing the choice between the meal vouchers or financial contribution, they will proceed immediately to comply with the legislation, or make this decision a little later.
The employer may stipulate in its internal regulation the details of the choice and the manner of implementation of the employer's obligation to provide meals or a financial contribution for catering.
It is recommended to elaborate an appendix to the existing regulation, which should include the following:
- How in particular the employee can choose the form of catering (the most convenient way is to complete an application template)
- Dates by which the employees should decide so that the employer is able to ensure meals for the relevant month
- Instruction on the binding nature of the decision for a period of 12 months
- The method of disbursement (bank transfer, cash ...)
The obligation of providing the meal contribution to the employee one month in advance (i.e. for the actual period when the meals are to be provided to him or her) still continues to apply.
The amount of financial contribution
The financial contribution will combine the obligatory contribution by the employer and the contribution from the employer's social fund, in cases where the employer uses the resources from the social fund for this purpose.
The determination of the minimum and maximum amount of the financial contribution for employee meals will follow the same principle as in the case of meal vouchers.
The minimum amount of the financial contribution for meals will be 55% of the minimum value of the meal voucher (i.e. from the amount of €3.83), which currently stands at €2.11. The maximum amount of the financial contribution for meals in 2021 will be €2.81 (i.e. 55% of the value of the meal allowance provided during a business trip lasting 5 to 12 hours = €5.10).
The financial contribution provided pursuant to the Labour Code will be exempt from income tax and social insurance contributions on the part of the employee as well as the employer.