Under the last amendment to the Labour code employees are entitled to choose between meal vouchers and direct financial contribution.
The change applies to those employers who do not have their own catering facility or other (contractual) catering facility. The amendment allows employees to choose between a meal voucher and a financial contribution for meals.
The very origin of the right to provide meals does not change. Every employee who works more than 4 hours per day is entitled to a meal. In case employee works more than 11 hours in one shift, he may receive additional meal or financial compensation.
The transitional period
The law allows employers who have concluded a contract with a meal vouchers provider before March 1st, 2021 to use the transitional period and switch to be providing a financial contribution in the period of their choice, but no later than on Jan 1st, 2022.
Pursuant to the amendment to the Act, the employer is obliged to allow the employee the choice between a meal voucher and a financial contribution. This option is binding for the next 12 months. The law does not stipulate that the employer must encourage the employee to choose, it only imposes an obligation on the employer to allow the choice. From a practical point of view, it is appropriate to present the employee with a choice in writing when a new employee enters the employment relationship. Details on the selection process should be set out in an internal regulation. We also recommend stipulating in the internal regulations that if the employee does not report a new fact after 12 months, the next 12 months will be followed according to the previous selection.
At the same time, the internal regulation should include a notice to employees of the date from which the company switches to the new system, with a choice between the current provision of meal vouchers and the provision of a financial contribution. It is necessary for the employee to confirm his choice in writing so that it cannot be questioned in the future.
The employee is bound by his choice for a period of 12 months. He cannot change his decision in a shorter period, nor can he agree with his employer to shorten the 12-month period.
Employers who hire employees at different times during the year must respect a 12-month period for each employee individually, depending on the date of commencement of employment. As already mentioned, the employer is not obliged to update the employees' choice every 12 months if this is regulated in the internal regulation and if the employee does not express his willingness to change his choice for another 12 months within the given deadline.
The amount of financial contribution
The amount of the financial allowance for meals must be the same as the allowance for other employees who receive meal vouchers. This is at least 55% of the minimum value of the meal voucher. The minimum value of a meal voucher is currently EUR 3,83 and the minimum financial contribution of the employer for meals is EUR 2,11. In case the employer also contributes to the meals of employees from the social fund, such a contribution will increase the amount of the financial contribution to the same extent.
The employer must provide a financial contribution for meals to the employee in advance, it cannot be processed in the wages for the previous month. Although this provision of the law is one of the most problematic, in the opinion of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs it is not possible to deviate from this rule.
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