Many of our clients are currently addressing this issue in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, asking whether their employees are still entitled to meal vouchers, although they have to work from home due to the emergency measures, so called “home office”, and whether it is possible, in this case, to include meal vouchers costs in the tax-deductible costs of the employer.
In this context, we mainly emphasize that the employee’s entitlement to the meal voucher and the deductibility of tax costs are two completely different matters. In case of home office, there may be a situation where the employee is entitled to the meal voucher, but at the same time it will not be a tax deductible expense on the employer’s side.
In respect to the entitlement of the employee to the meal voucher, it can be concluded that the meal voucher is a voluntary employee benefit and therefore it will always depend on how the entitlement to the meal voucher is regulated by the given employer. As a standard, the entitlement to the meal voucher arises for the employee who works a given number of hours per shift / day.
From this point of view, it does not matter whether the employee works at the employer’s workplace or from home. However, in this case, it is important which mode of working from home will be arranged with the employee, i.e. whether the employer distributes the working hours or its distribution is left to the employee. Both options offer certain advantages and disadvantages on both sides. Nevertheless, the right to the meal voucher is linked to a shift worked and the distribution of the working hours is then crucial. The right to the meal voucher arises at such the employer only if the beginning and the end of working hours are determined by the employer. This is the only way to determine the decisive days and the corresponding hours worked for which the employee is entitled to the meal voucher.
As regards the question when the meal vouchers can be considered as an employer’s tax deductible cost, all the following conditions must be met:
- the employee performs work at the workplace (which does not have to be the employer’s workplace) according to the instructions of the employer,
- the employee has the pre-arranged working hours in shifts,
- the employee performs work during the set shift for at least 3 hours or is at least ready at the workplace during this time to perform work according to the instructions of the employer.
Therefore, if an employer provides the meal voucher in accordance with a labor or collective agreement, internal regulation or agreement, to an employee working from home, while the employee distributes his / her working hours himself / herself according to the Section 317 of the Labor Code, the employer cannot use the meal voucher as the tax-deductible cost, as the above mentioned conditions will not be met.
If the employee has a workplace at home, the meal voucher will be always his exempt income without any other conditions.
For this reason, when concluding the agreement on work from home, we recommend our clients carefully considering whether the working hours will be distributed by the employer or whether the employee will distribute the working hours himself / herself, regardless of whether the reason for the work from home is a voluntary benefit in favor of the employee or a reaction to the current epidemiological situation in the Czech Republic. In any case, the agreement on work from home must be concluded in writing. Of course, agreed mode like this can be applied to a part of the set weekly working hours as well.