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I work from home one day in the week and commute to the office the remaining four days. This commute takes up a total of ~2.5 hours a day (I do not mind the commute). I live in the Netherlands with my parents, and use a rented bike as well as the train for my commute.

After finishing my internship and having been graduated, the company (15-20 people) offered me a fulltime position. Upon reviewing the proposed contract I raised the point of travel allowance, and asked if this would be covered or not. I was told that this would be reviewed.

I was later told that they do not usually renegotiate proposed contracts and that this would be no exception. I was informed that since I live with my parents, they did not think it was fair to compensate me for my travel costs.

I had already done some research, and figured that if the company were to pay for my train card as a business I would be cheaper off than if I were to buy it myself as a consumer. I asked if they would be willing to pay for this business train card and cutting the monthly costs from my paycheck, to which they agreed.

Fast forward a few months; everyone was informed that those within the proximity of the office would be given a fixed travel allowance for their commute to the office. (E.g. for bike rental expenses)

I proceeded to ask a member of management in private if this would also affect anything about my arrangement, from who I got the indication that this would not affect me.

I cannot help but feel like I am paying for my own commute and am now treated unfairly in comparison to my other colleagues. There are others who also travel commute from further away, but I am not sure what their arrangement is like. It feels like I am treated this way because of my choice to live with my parents to save on costs.

To give some indication:

  1. Bike rental is ~€15 a month
  2. Train card is ~€240 a month

Comes down to a total of ~€3,060 a year I am paying right now. Excluding the fact that I spend 40 hours a month commuting.

I feel awkward bringing up the topic of pay, based on how they responded when I first brought up the travel allowance. Should I voice my thoughts on the matter with management? Am I wrong in thinking this is unfair?

  • Yes, bring it up again, but this time, do it via email, and craft that email carefully so that there is no misunderstanding. Do you want to receive both the train allowance and the bike allowance even though they had only originally agreed to pay for your train only? – Stephan Branczyk Oct 31 at 21:54
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    Hi! Based on my experience, travel compensation is extremely common in the Netherlands, so it would be reasonably easy to find a proper company to work for. If that's not possible, keep in mind that when you'll do your tax declaration for the Belastingdienst, you will be able to recover some of those expenses through tax discounts. It's better than nothing! – STT LCU Nov 1 at 9:12
  • How much is this fixed allowance for others? Is your current situation better or worse than that? – puck Nov 1 at 9:28
  • @ChrisFNZ Then you must not know many people working in The Netherlands. It's really common here, and there are laws about how much they can reimburse for travel costs without paying income taxes over it. – Jasper Nov 1 at 10:39
  • Are you covered by any kind of CAO? The individual contracts may cover negotiations with specific individuals, but some benefits, allowances and etc. can be blanket overed by CAO – Juliana Karasawa Souza Nov 1 at 15:08
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I can't comment about the Netherlands specifically, but where I am cost to get to and from work is your own problem.

BUT

If the employer is subsidizing some people's travel but not others then that seems unfair. I wouldn't expect the employer to cover your whole trip, but you should at least get the same fixed rate as everyone else to cover at least the bike rental.

  • We live in an unfair world. I worked at not for a company in a large city in the US. The company subsidized it's employees parking in the paid garage next door at $200/month + tax. However, I was an employee of that companies parent company. The company I worked at said since Im not an employee of that company they cant subsidize my parking costs. The parent company said they dont subsidize any employees travel expenses and it would be unfair to their other employees if they reimbursed me. I was not a happy camper. – Keltari Nov 2 at 15:36
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I think you should indeed push for the travel allowance for bike rental, since you too rent a bike. You should point out that your current "allowance" was taken from your negotiated salary just for the tax benefits. If everyone else gets an allowance, you should request to get the same on top of your current allowance.

But do keep in mind that your travel arrangements are yours and you still chose to take this job. The company does not care how much you pay for travel, or that you spend lots of time commuting. You choose to live with your parents and it was your choice to take a job 1+ hours from home. It is not to your benefit to use this argument. Most people will assume that you save money when you share housing expenses with your parents, so if you use this argument they might retort (or think quietly to themselves) that €3000 per year is nothing compared to renting an apartment closer to work.

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  1. Figure out whether your company has a written policy about commute re-reimbursement or supplement. Most companies have one and it's often required even just for accounting, legal and tax reasons.
  2. In the unlikely case they don't have one, ask them to create one: It's in their own best interest. In almost all legislation it's required to track the money that gets spread around and to have a written process how it's done.
  3. If they do have one, read it and check whether the current behavior is compliant with the policy or not. If no, you can talk to HR about any specific non-compliance. If yes, than you can only ask for a policy change but that's a long shot.
  4. In general commute expenses are your responsibility. You choose where you live and the company has no control over this.
  5. "fairness" is difficult to assess or define. Commute is a complicated mix of cost of housing, time spent, cost of transport, family entanglement, etc. That's a balance decision that every person has to make for themselves.

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