IOSH Right on Narrow Tax Breaks in Work Place Health

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has issued this press release calling on the government to remove three restrictions from its decision to remove tax disincentives for certain employer-provided health support and access to physical activity and sports.

IOSH is absolutely right.

The government intends to cap the tax free amount that employers can invest in a clinical intervention to £500. It’s a nice round number but completely arbitary. It has no clinical basis and ignores the cost benefit analysis of cases where spending more on treatment results in a much greater amount of reduced cost.  There should be no cap.

Employers can only benefit from treatment tax breaks following recommendations from the new Health and Work Service – primarily designed for small employers who cannot afford their own Occupational Health services. This is a bit like the joke about crime in a multi-storey car park – wrong on so many different levels.

  • It’s discriminatory against the larger employer who already pays for OH and an inconsistent treatment of tax which I thought this government was trying to get away from.
  • It’s been proven time and time again that the secret to an early return to work is an early intervention. How confident are we that this new Health and Work Service will be able to deliver its recommendations in the timescales required.  At the moment, the proposal is to offer an occupational health assessment after four weeks absence, yes four weeks !
  • Who is going to be running this new service? The government says it is going out to tender for external private provision. I envisage a big impersonal call centre with advisers who have no knowledge of local issues or indeed the wide range of employment practices over so many small businesses.

The government wants to exclude tax exemption on associated costs to the employer’s health support, such as specialist equipment, workplace adjustments and travel expenses.  Why?  It’s all part of the same objective of getting the employee back to work as quickly as possible incurring the least cost to the state and employer as possible.

In my opinion, the government really needs to be looking at the wider rationale for removing all tax disincentives for employers providing health support services for their employees. Anything that an employer does to help prevent or treat ill health has a positive impact on the wider economy.