Tax breaks for medical treatments urged to reduce burden on stretched NHS


Britain’s manufacturers are urging tax breaks in order to tackle the UK’s chronic sickness absence problem. Aimed to ease the burden on the NHS, it hopes to encourage more employers to pay for private treatment for staff.

According to the study by EEF and Jelf survey, 41% of manufacturers say long term absence has increased in the last 2 years. With the NHS not meeting the needs of 40% of manufacturers, there is a worry situation.

Additionally, two fifths of companies still rely exclusively on the NHS as the primary source of treatment to reduce absence with less than a fifth (18%) currently paying for non NHS treatment. However almost a third (31%) would pay for medical treatment if there was a benefit to the company while almost three fifths (59%) would be most incentivized to pay for the cost of treatment or, workplace adjustment, by some form of employer allowable business expense.

Iain Laws, managing director, UK Healthcare & Group Risk at Jelf, said: “The health of employees is a major factor in an organisation’s competitiveness. More and more employers are realising that both keeping people in work and, getting them back earlier from absence, is enormously important for their business.

“Healthy employees can be up to three times as productive as those in poor health. They experience fewer motivational problems are more resilient to change and are more likely to be engaged with the business priorities. It is essential that companies have systems in place which recognise this and which place employee health provision at their heart.”

EEF’s survey also provides some tentative evidence of the effectiveness of the new ‘Fit for Work’ service introduced last September. Only a fifth (19%) of employers said that they would definitely be willing to pay for medical treatments recommended by the Fit for Work service. Three-fifths (59%) of survey respondents were yet to make up their mind and almost a fifth (18%) said they would not use it at all.

Terry Woolmer, head of health and safety policy at EEF said: “Keeping people fit and healthy, whilst enabling a speedy return to work from absence is essential to economic growth and improvements in productivity. However, currently we have long term absence on the increase and an under pressure NHS which is struggling to deal with the issue. Given this situation is only going to get worse with an ageing population radical action is now required.

“Government must now use fiscal incentives to encourage employers to pay for private medical treatment and allow it to be offset in the same way as other business expenses. Not only would this help take the pressure off the NHS but it would allow a speedier return to work. This would be a win win for Government, the employee and employers.”