New food stamp rules remove flexibility and create controversy

The new rules of the PAT (Worker’s Food Programme), created by a federal government decree at the end of 2021, created a flurry in the welfare chain. From companies that provide food vouchers (VA) and meal vouchers (RVs) to those that include these vouchers in employee benefits packages, everyone will have until May 2023 to adapt to the changes.

The main ones are the expiration of the installment or extended payment terms, which eliminates the pre-paid feature of these benefits, and the expiration ban, which is a kind of discount that coupon providers give to the HRs of the organizations. This is compensated for by charging higher fees than accredited organizations. These in turn pass the damage on to those at the other end of the chain, the workers who pay more for food.

The practice resulted in redistributing some of the employee’s earnings to the company itself, according to Fernanda Zanetti, VP of digital banking at Creditas, which centralizes eight types of corporate benefits, including meal vouchers and meal vouchers, into a single card. “It was a strange incentive because besides reducing competition in the market, it was more interesting to the company than to the employees,” she says. “VA and VR companies have also had to get a huge percentage of organizations to support this discount, and HRs of companies registered with PAT are already getting tax incentives from the government to offer the vouchers,” adds Viviane Sales, Vice President of Creditas. @To work.

Another major change, according to executives, is that broader brands such as Mastercard and Visa will now be accepted. “We believe these changes will bring competitiveness,” Viviane says. “Allowing these flags opens the possibility for more organizations to accept coupons, which means more options for the worker.”

For Jessica Srour, executive chairman of ABBT (Brazilian Association of Workers Benefit Companies), another key rule regarding coupons came with Temporary Measure 1.108 in March this year, which extended the discount ban to all CLT contracts, company or not. Registered with PAT. Fines for violators range from R$5,000 to R$50,000.

He says the lawmaker puts the reins on a legal figure created in the 2017 Labor Reform, a new tax-exempt aid format—food aid—opening a vacuum for values ​​due to the lack of clear definitions. used for other purposes. “Since then, it has come without a rule and competed unfairly with PAT products,” he says. “New operators are starting to offer coupons and cards where anything is possible. Now, with MP you can no longer buy anything. The cost should be in the food.”

The director says there are two aspects to this analysis. “It seems like a modernization for people to choose how they want to spend their VA and VR. But the government (in the case of PAT) does not collect taxes to fully guarantee the worker’s food”, he exemplifies. The MP came to bring food aid closer to PAT products and fined companies that run these amounts for any purpose. He also warns, “Because it carries the risk of being seen as an additional salary in the medium and long term,” and points out that this is happening in other countries as well.

“States abroad began to collect taxes, then the aid began to be included in their structure and disappeared. PAT is the oldest and most robust program in the country. It benefits 22 million workers and indirectly their families. We’re talking about over 40 million Brazilians. Collectively it is very important.”

Despite bringing some progress, a still incongruous issue of the decree and the MP is the impossibility of moving values ​​from VA to VR or vice versa. “There is no flexibility to transfer the balance between food and meal cards, or to use it for other purposes than food,” explains Rodrigo Somogyi, Sodexo Benefits and Incentives product director, who works with both solutions. Foodstuffs in supermarkets, butchers, vegetables and the like, and VR for ready meals in bars, cafeterias, bakeries, restaurants and delivery, both are regulated by PAT law.

But for him, the new hybrid operating model changed the rules. “Since being at home does not mean having enough time to prepare, eat, organize the kitchen, and take breaks before starting professional activities, employees can choose what is most convenient for their time, having both benefits,” he observes.

The glass is half full and half empty

Viviane Elias Moreira, head of innovation at 99Jobs, believes that immobilizing the transfer of values ​​does not take into account the individual context of employees. In the 6-month position, he designed and implemented a number of engagement benefits, including a health plan without employee involvement, days off on birthdays, a guarantee of changes in national and regional holidays, and a partnership program with universities and clubs. shopping, water park, spa and languages, among others. “These were more of help for employee requests,” says the manager. “I usually say that a CNPJ is a set of CPFs. We need to look at people’s real needs to have a happier workplace, and that has benefits.”

When it comes to VA and VR, Viviane says 99Jobs is already making adjustments to the rules. “It is a positive change for the company to control and mitigate risks because it guarantees greater assertiveness and prevents deviations for inappropriate uses. In this sense, the glass is half full. “But for us it was much more painful to understand the needs of the employee. At a time when there is a shortage of manpower and people with new needs, it is a setback because it takes the economic power from them.”

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The manager gives examples like those using the value of VR to join the VA and make the month’s purchase. “People are giving up on eating out at restaurants to bring home food. A lot of people are like that,” he says. “Employees also bring lunchboxes to the company because sometimes you can’t even eat out with the value of VR. So, if the advantage is flexible, it can collect and guarantee the entire supply month at home,” he adds. “The law is helpful, but it completely ignores this personal side of the employee. Now companies will have to really think about innovating in an unstable economic and social context, with a budget cap for it and other benefits.”

lost elasticity

Another person who does not see the change as a step forward is Alana Querino, HR officer of Crowe Macro Group, which currently has close to 500 employees. Offering a core benefit package of medical and dental care, life insurance, transportation vouchers, tuition assistance, classroom agent reimbursement, home office assistance, day care assistance and meal vouchers, the company will now have the value of VR. to the vendor-developed platform.

“For the convenience of professionals, we have provided meal vouchers in a flexible way where it is possible to choose how the amount on the card is used,” says the supervisor. “With the new PAT rules, companies had to adapt and lock in the balance for eat-in-only or food-only. In our case, it was not necessary to change the service provider, as we were able to define how the balance should be used through the platform. But overall, we don’t see it as a positive as professionals lose the flexibility they had in using the benefit.”

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