New food stamp rules are inflexible and spark debate

The new PAT (Workers’ Food Program) regulations, introduced at the end of 2021 by federal government decree, have caused a stir along the benefit chain. From companies that provide food stamps (VA) and meal vouchers (RV) to those that include these vouchers in their benefits package, everyone will have until May 2023 to adapt to the changes.

Among the main ones are the end of installment payment terms or renewals, which de-characterize the prepaid nature of these benefits, as well as the ban on rebate, a kind of rebate provided by HR voucher providers that ends up being offset by charging higher fees to accredited institutions. They, in turn, pass on the damage to those at the other end of the chain – workers who pay more for food.

According to Fernanda Zanetti, vice president of digital banking at Creditas, which centralizes eight types of corporate benefits on one card, including meal vouchers and food vouchers, the practice has led to a reallocation of some of the company’s own employee remuneration. “It was a strange incentive because, in addition to reducing competition in the market, it was more interesting for the company than for employees,” he says. “VA and VR also had to charge a very high percentage of establishments to support this discount, and PAT-registered HR companies are already receiving tax credits from the government to offer vouchers,” adds Vivian Sales, vice president of Creditas. @Work.

Another major change, executives say, is that broader brands such as Mastercard and Visa will now be accepted as well. “We believe that these changes will bring competitiveness,” says Vivian. “Authorizing these flags opens up the possibility for more establishments to accept vouchers, which means more options for the worker.”

For Jessica Srour, Director-President of ABBT (Brazilian Association of Employee Benefit Companies), another important rule regarding vouchers came into effect in March this year with provisional measure 1108, which extended the ban on discounts to all CLT contracts, regardless of whether the company is or not. enrolled in PAT. The fine ranges from 5,000 to 50,000 reais for those who do not comply with the rule.

She says the MP has tidied up a legal figure that was created in the 2017 labor reform, namely food allowance, a new tax-free benefit format that, due to a lack of clear definitions, has opened up a value gap. used for other purposes. “Since then, it has been happening without rules and unfairly competing with PAT products,” he says. “New operators have begun to offer vouchers and cards where everything is possible. Now, with MP, you can’t buy anything else. Expenses should be for food.

The director says there are two aspects to this analysis. “It’s like an upgrade where people choose how they want to spend their VA and VR. But the government does not collect the tax (in the case of PAT) precisely to ensure that the worker will eat,” he gives an example. “The MP came to bring food aid closer to PAT products by imposing fines on companies that operate with these amounts for any purpose. Partly because there is a risk that the benefit will be seen as an additional salary in the medium and long term,” she warns, noting that this has happened in other countries.

“Governments abroad started collecting taxes, then the allowance became payroll and ceased to exist. PAT is the oldest and most trusted program in the country. This benefits 22 million workers and, indirectly, their families. We are talking about more than 40 million Brazilians. Taken together, this is very important.”

Despite some successes, the problem of the Decree and the MP, which still causes controversy, is the impossibility of migrating values ​​from VA to VR and vice versa. “There is no flexibility in transferring the balance between food and nutrition cards, as well as in using it for purposes other than eating,” explains Rodrigo Shomoji, Product Director of Sodexo Benefits and Incentives, who works with both solutions. food in supermarkets, butchers, vegetables, etc., as well as VR for ready meals in bars, cafeterias, bakeries, restaurants and delivery, both are regulated by PAT law.

However, for him, the new hybrid work model changed the rules. “With both benefits, employees can choose what is most convenient for their time, because being at home does not mean having enough time to prepare meals, eat, clean up the kitchen and take a break before resuming professional activities,” he observes.

Glass half full and half empty

Vivian Elias Moreira, head of innovation at 99Jobs, believes that the immobilization of value transfer does not take into account the individual context of employees. During her 6 months in office, she developed and implemented a range of engagement benefits, such as a non-complicit health plan, a day off for birthdays, a guarantee to make changes to national and regional holidays, and a partnership program with universities, clubs. shops, water park, spa and languages, among others. “These were benefits that were more focused on the needs of the employees themselves,” says the head. “I usually say that CNPJ is a set of CPFs. We need to look at people’s real needs in order to have a happier work environment, and there are benefits to that.”

In the case of VA and VR, Vivian says 99Jobs has already made adjustments to the rules. “For the company in terms of control and risk mitigation, this is a positive change as it provides greater confidence and prevents deviations from misuse. In this sense, the glass is half full. “But for us it was much more painful in terms of understanding the needs of the worker. At a time when there is a shortage of labor and people with new needs, this is a failure, because it takes away their economic power.”

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The executive gives examples, such as those who use the value of VR to join VA and make a purchase of the month. “People are refusing to eat at restaurants to eat at home. There are many such people,” he says. “Employees also bring lunch boxes to the company because sometimes you can’t even eat out with the value of virtual reality. So if the benefit is flexible, he can add up and guarantee the entire month of supply at home,” he adds. “The law is beneficial, but it completely ignores this personal part of the worker. Companies will now really have to think about innovating in terms of providing other budget line benefits to do so in a volatile economic and social context.”

lost flexibility

Another person who doesn’t see the change as a step forward is Alana Kerino, head of human resources at the Crowe Macro Group, which currently has about 500 employees. The company, which offers a basic benefit package consisting of medical and dental care, life insurance, transportation vouchers, educational assistance, class agency reimbursement, home office assistance, daycare assistance, and meal vouchers, will now have this standalone VR value. . into a platform developed by the vendor.

“Thinking about the convenience of professionals, we provided meal vouchers in a flexible way where you could choose how to use the amount on the card,” says the supervisor. “With the new PAT rules, companies have been forced to adapt and lock in the balance for food or food only. In our case, there was no need to change the service provider, since we could determine how to use the balance through the platform. But in the general context, we do not see anything positive in this, since the professionals have lost their flexibility in using the advantage.

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