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Frequently Asked Questions
A commuter benefit program is required if the business has 20 or more employees nationwide with a location in San Francisco, and has a San Francisco business registration certificate. Non-profits operating in San Francisco are also subject to the Ordinance. Please refer to the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector for more information on the business registration certificate.
Employees must be allowed to participate in a commuter benefits program once they reach an average of 10 hours per week, but employers are encouraged to allow all employees access to a commuter benefits program, regardless of hours worked.
To determine an employee’s eligibility, the employer may average the employee’s hours over the previous calendar month. For example, if an employee worked a total of 40 hours over one month, then 40 hours ÷ 4 weeks = average of 10 hours per week. This employee would be eligible to participate in their commuter benefits program the following month. For purposes of this calculation, employers may assume that each calendar month has 4 weeks.
The Ordinance applies to all persons who perform work in San Francisco, including those employees covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement. A bona fide collective bargaining agreement is a written contract concerning wages, hours, and working conditions that is collectively bargained by an employer and a recognized union that represents the employees.
Yes, an employee’s eligibility for the commuter benefits program may be subject to a waiting period. This waiting period should be consistent with the eligibility period for other company benefits, but should not exceed one month. If the company does not offer other benefits, the employee should not have to wait longer than one month to enroll in commuter benefits.
The Ordinance requires you to offer a program to all eligible employees. It is up to the employee to participate in the program. If you have offered the program and no employees express interest in participating, you still need to have a program ready to go in case an employee opts into the program later or if you have a new hire who wishes to take part. In this situation, work with your payroll staff to set up the program as necessary (e.g. set up a deduction code for pre-tax deductions, set up subsidy information), talk to vendors that can provide passes or programs if an employee participates, and have your official company policy available. With these measures in place, you will be in compliance and ready to offer a program to interested employees in the future.
New San Francisco employers have 90 days to set-up a commuter benefits program and submit an Employer Compliance Reporting Form.
San Francisco employers have 90 days after they become subject to the Ordinance to set-up a commuter benefits program and submit an Employer Compliance Reporting Form.
If all of your employees telecommute, you are not required to offer commuter benefits. You are still required to submit an Annual Compliance Reporting Form. On the Compliance Reporting form, please mark “Subject to the Commuter Benefits Ordinance”, and select “No” for each of question about specific commuter benefits. In the “Additional Information” box please note that all of your San Francisco-based employees telecommute. If not all San Francisco-based employees telecommute, you are otherwise subject to the Ordinance and must implement a Commuter Benefits program.
If current employees telecommute, you still need to have a program ready to go in case an employee begins to commute to an office later or if you have a new hire traveling to an office daily. In this situation, work with your payroll staff to set up the program as necessary (e.g. set up a deduction code for pre-tax deductions, set up subsidy information), talk to vendors that can provide passes or programs if an employee participates, and have your official company policy available. With these measures in place, you will be in compliance and ready to offer a program to interested employees in the future.
If your business is not located near transit, you may offer incentives to encourage ridesharing. However, to comply with the Ordinance you must offer transit commuter benefits for those who may choose to take transit.
When submitting the annual Employer Compliance Reporting Form, indicate that you are required to comply with the Ordinance, mark the commuter benefits that you are offering, and in “Additional Information” describe the carpooling or ridesharing incentives that you are offering your employees.
Employers are required to make the program available to eligible employees, and that will typically involve some form of communication. In addition, employers may opt to post flyers or notifications to further advertise the program to employees. CommuteSmart has a free customizable template available for employers to help with communicating program information.
The CommuteSmart team offers a variety of programs and services to help employers encourage smart commuting behavior.
Employers can sign up for our free Emergency Ride Home Program. Once their employer has enrolled, employees who use transit, vanpool, carpool, bicycles or walk to work on the day of an unexpected personal emergency can take a taxi, rental car or other transit home and SF Environment will reimburse them. To learn more and enroll in this free City-administered program, please visit SFERH.org.
Employees can also save time and money on their commute by sharing the ride. Employees may find carpool or vanpool partners using 511’s free Rideshare Matching Service.
For more information, contact:
San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment)
City & County of San Francisco
Phone: (415) 355-3727
San Francisco is habitat for 800,000 people – meeting needs for space to work, play, and learn; for food, water, and air; for community with local flora and fauna. SF Environment provides support for urban agriculture and forestry and green buildings, helping residents and businesses harness environmental opportunities.