Restaurant vouchers - Rules for using them for employees

The meal voucher is a form of payment for meals. What are the rules for using meal vouchers for employees in 2023?

If you don't have a company canteen or restaurant, you can use your meal voucher to pay for your meal. We present the regulations governing employee meal vouchers as of January 1, 2023.

Allocation of meal vouchers

Employers are not obliged to issue meal vouchers to their employees. They can also choose to provide a canteen or catering room, or pay them a lunch allowance.

If your employer has chosen to grant meal vouchers, you are entitled to one voucher for each meal included in your daily working hours, whether you are an employee (full-time or part-time), trainee or temporary worker.

You are not obliged to accept meal vouchers, unless a collective agreement provides for this for all employees. If you do not wish to use vouchers, it is advisable to inform your employer in writing.

The meal voucher is partly financed by the employer, who pays between 50% and 60% of its value.

Form of meal vouchers‍

There are several formats of luncheon vouchers:

  • Paper luncheon vouchers in checkbook form
  • Prepaid and reloadable smart card (usable in the same terminals as bank cards)
  • Access to an application on a mobile phone (smartphone)

Worklife offers dematerialised meal vouchers in the form of a payment card.

Conditions for obtaining meal vouchers

Who is entitled to meal vouchers?

In the companies that offer it, the allocation of meal vouchers concerns :

  • full-time employees, regardless of the employment contract (permanent or fixed-term)
  • part-time employees, if the meal break is provided for in their contract (an employee who works only in the morning or only in the afternoon does not receive meal vouchers)
  • trainees
  • temporary workers
  • apprenticeship or qualification contracts
  • employees of employer groups
  • teleworking employees, if they benefit from the same working conditions as employees working in the company
  • employees serving their notice period (except during the cumulative period of job search hours at the end of the notice period)
  • public officials, if requested by the employer

However, they are not entitled to meal vouchers:

  • Absent employees (due to illness, work accident, paid leave, time off work, etc.)
  • part-time employees whose working day ends before or begins after the lunch break
  • corporate officers (managers, chairman of SAS, etc.), unless they combine their corporate office with an employment contract

Criteria for awarding meal vouchers

" The meal voucher is considered to be a social benefit, and it is generally accepted that it should be granted on an equal basis to salaried employees of the company ", says the Commission nationale des titres restaurant (CNTR).

The employer may nevertheless make the allocation of meal vouchers subject to certain criteria, provided that these are objective and do not discriminate between beneficiaries.

The mere difference in professional category is not a valid award criterion: for example, the employer cannot treat managers and non-managers in the same situation differently. Nor can he make a distinction between sedentary and non-sedentary employees.

On the other hand, case law has accepted that the employer may differentiate the allocation of meal vouchers to the employee according to :

  • the distance of work from home
  • the number of days worked in the month
  • seniority

How many meal vouchers can I get?

The rule for allocating meal vouchers is simple: one meal voucher per eligible employee for a day worked (working day) and only if the meal is included in the working hours, according to article R3262-7 of the Labour Code. Legally, employees are therefore only entitled to one meal voucher per day worked, i.e. a maximum of 220 days per year for a full-time employee, not counting paid holidays, public holidays and sick leave.

However, an employee whose work schedule includes two meals in the same day may receive two meal vouchers.

Financing of meal vouchers

Employer and employee share

The employer is free to determine the amount of the settlement value (face value) of the meal vouchers. In accordance with Article 6A of Annex 4 of the General Tax Code, the meal voucher is partly financed by the employer, who must pay between 50% and 60% of its value. The employee must pay between 40% and 50% of the value of the ticket.

A company that decides to introduce a meal voucher system for its employees must obtain them from one of the private companies specialising in issuing vouchers, including Worklife.

Use of meal vouchers 

Where and how to use meal vouchers?

Restaurant vouchers are personal. You are the only person who can use them.

You can use your meal vouchers on working days only, unless you have to work on Sundays or public holidays.

You can pay for all or part of your meal with your meal vouchers in :

  • restaurants 
  • sausages
  • caterers
  • bakeries
  • grocery shops
  • food retailers
  • with fruit and vegetable retailers

The vouchers are valid for food that can be consumed immediately or that will be used in the preparation of your meal. 

Restaurants and shops are not obliged to accept luncheon vouchers. Each shop chain sets its own list of products that can be paid for with restaurant vouchers. There may therefore be differences from one store to another.

If you use paper vouchers, the shopkeeper is not allowed to give you change. 

When you use a card or an application on your smartphone, you are debited with the exact amount to pay.

For example, dematerialised meal vouchers such as Worklife allow you to pay to the penny. 

You can only pay for your meals with meal vouchers in the department where you work and in neighbouring departments. Your employer may grant you vouchers valid outside these limits if you are travelling on business.

What is the maximum limit for using meal vouchers?

Since October 1, 2022, employees have benefited from more flexible conditions for using their meal vouchers, with an increase in the ceiling from the traditional 19 euros to 25 euros per working day (article R3262-10 of the French Labor Code).

What is the validity of meal vouchers?

Luncheon vouchers are valid for a limited period of time (not permanently).

In their paper version, article R3262-5 of the French Labor Code stipulates that luncheon vouchers are valid for the calendar year to which they refer (also known as the "vintage").

In addition, there is an extra period of use, to allow you to use up any remaining meal tickets from the year of issue. This period runs from January 1 of the following year. It lasts one month for paper vouchers: meal vouchers issued in year N are therefore in principle usable until January 31 of year N+1 (the following year).

The dematerialized version of meal vouchers can be used until the last day of February of the year following issue.

How is the carry-over of the year for dematerialised restaurant vouchers? 

As explained above, the additional period of use lasts two months (compared with one for paper vouchers). Cardholders can use their "vintage" vouchers until the last day of February of the following year (February 28, 2023 for vouchers credited to the card in 2022).

Worklife luncheon vouchers benefit from an automatic carryover of vintages and are therefore automatically converted into credits for the current year, without any intervention required from the company or the employee.

Part-time work, partial unemployment, teleworking: what rights to meal vouchers?

Restaurant vouchers and part-time work

If you are a part-time employee, you are entitled to a meal voucher when your working hours are interrupted by a lunch break, as article R3262-7 of the Labour Code only requires that the employee's meal be "included in his daily working hours". On the other hand, if you work either in the morning (before the lunch break) or in the afternoon (after the lunch break), you cannot benefit from it. However, if you work a certain number of days in the week, you are entitled to meal tickets.

Luncheon vouchers and partial activity

What happens if you are placed on partial unemployment (also called partial activity) by your employer? There are two possible scenarios:

  • if you work part-time several days a week: you are entitled to meal vouchers, provided that your working periods include a meal break and a return to work after this break (you are not entitled if you only come to work in the morning or afternoon)
  • if the company is closed: your employment contract is suspended during this period, you no longer need to take a meal break at your place of work. Consequently, your employer does not have to give you meal vouchers

Luncheon vouchers and teleworking

As teleworkers have the same rights and benefits as employees working on the company's premises, you are entitled to meal vouchers if your employer has introduced this scheme. Teleworkers are entitled to meal vouchers for each day worked, as long as their working day is interspersed with a break for a meal.

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