Food Subsidy 2021: 9 reasons why employee satisfaction goes through the stomach

Employers are often spoiled for choice when it comes to employee benefits and benefits in kind. There are many options for offering benefits to your employees – some of which may even be tax-free! Not sure which benefits suit you and your team? No problem, we are happy to help you. Today, we’ll show you how you can make a real difference to your employees’ satisfaction with a meal allowance, especially in 2021.

1. Your company reduces its non-wage labor costs

Fringe benefits are a common cost for businesses. Savings in this area are an attractive option for companies and a meal subsidy is a practical alternative for this.

This is because a meal allowance is what is known as a non-monetary allowance. There are tax benefits from the state on these non-cash benefits. The subsidies are de facto paid out before ancillary wage costs are deducted. As a result, hardly any or only a few ancillary costs have to be paid on them.

For the employee, this means that fewer ancillary costs increase the individual net salary.

2. Your employees are more motivated and productive.

Healthy food is good for business! A study by the University of Copenhagen in 2011 showed that. Because: healthy food increases work productivity. For HR teams and executives, it is therefore worthwhile to focus on a balanced food offering for their employees. Not least because of this, employee meals with meal allowances are a popular employee benefit. On the one hand, employees save time and energy when they don’t have to plan and provide meals themselves. On the other hand, a healthy range of food helps productivity and supports well-being in the workplace all the more.

3. The sense of community in the team increases

According to a recent study by Marketplace and Sodexo, two-thirds of the employees surveyed say that the lunch break is important to them as a time to catch up with colleagues and friends.  As an energy-bringing break away from the sometimes stressful workday. This reflects the important social role of employee meals. With a meal allowance, you not only help your employees satisfy their hunger and recharge their batteries, you also actively promote team building and strengthen your corporate culture.

4. Your employees can personalize this benefit in kind

A clear advantage of the meal allowance compared to other non-cash benefits, is that it is easy to personalize. Companies are not tied to specific restaurants or supermarkets and can use canteen, delivery, grocery, bakery or catering services for their employees’ meals – depending on which option suits them best. This gives employees the freedom to choose whether they want to buy their lunch, pick it up or have it delivered. This allows employees to freely choose whether they use their lunch break to shop and cook something healthy, pick up something from the corner restaurant, grab something from the canteen or a food vending machine, or have something delivered after all. 

5. The meal allowance is tax-free up to a certain amount

For additional meal expenses, the legislator provides several options for tax-free subsidies. The meal allowance may not exceed the non-monetary remuneration value of 3.10 euros per meal – in addition to an own contribution of 3.47 euros. In total, the tax-free allowance for employee meals is therefore a maximum of 6.57 euros (3.47 euros + 3.10 euros).  In addition: The amount of the meal allowance may not exceed the actual price of the meal – and only one allowance per working day applies to each meal. Another requirement is that the meal voucher may only be used for one meal. If the amount is used for food, it must be for immediate consumption. 


6. The meal subsidy has become a business standard

Employee meals are an important factor in employer branding – because meal allowances, as a monetary benefit, are often a real plus in recruiting. In a survey by Circula, employees surveyed indicated that food and beverages were both clearly represented in the top 5 most sought-after employee benefits. According to Splendid Research GmbH’s Employer Attractiveness Monitor, it is 27 percent of employees who would like their employer to offer a cafeteria or other food and beverage option. This also has a corresponding influence on the selection of a new workplace… So if you don’t want to lose out in the “war of talents,” you should pay sufficient attention to employee catering as an employee benefit and invest in additional catering expenses, for example.

7. A meal subsidy does not involve much effort

All benefits are an attractive extra for employees – but ideally they should also work out as favorably and uncomplicated as possible for the employer. Here, too, the additional cost of meals is a good example, for example through meal vouchers that can be redeemed flexibly. The costs for the employer are covered by the social security savings depending on the consumption of the employees and are also rather low apart from that. 

A meal allowance for meals outside the company is possible – here the employer can offer its employees meal vouchers or make a cash payment directly to a restaurant. A meal voucher is a coupon that can be redeemed for a meal at a restaurant or grocery store. Once actual paper tokens, meal vouchers are now increasingly digital and the payment process is different: employees pay for their own meal and receive the meal benefit after the fact. This saves the employer some administrative work. Moreover, meal vouchers that are not redeemed do not cost the employer any money – another savings! 

8. You have a good alternative to the salary increase

Meal subsidies can either be offset as deferred compensation or paid in addition to salary. In both cases, the employee’s net salary increases.

In the case of salary conversion, non-wage costs are only due if the employee’s share is lower than the non-cash remuneration value (2021: 3.47 euros). However, the net salary can also be increased cost-effectively by using a meal subsidy as an alternative to a salary increase. In this case, the meal allowance is added to the existing salary. Only the difference between the value of the benefit in kind and the employee’s share is taxed, but this is also low-cost and flat-rate. Another advantage: The meal allowance can be granted in addition to the 44 euro exemption limit for benefits in kind! In our guide on the topic of benefits in kind, we have also explained the exemption limits and allowances in more detail.

9. Meal subsidy is possible for each workplace

Another advantage of the meal allowance: This non-monetary remuneration value applies to all companies in Germany – regardless of the industry or number of employees. So regardless of the size of the company, a meal allowance is an option for large companies and startups alike. And relevant for the time during and after the Corona Lockdown: companies can also offer their employees the tax-free meal allowance in their home offices. After all, healthy eating is always an important factor for concentration and productivity – regardless of where work is done from. The only important thing here is that employees can document and prove their expenses in detail. An added benefit is that this meal allowance encourages employees to incorporate regular breaks and refreshments into their daily work routine. So a meal allowance is a real benefit in every walk of life, making it clearly one of the most attractive employee benefits in 2021.

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