Autumn Statement: Why Jeremy Hunt should expand tax-free health support for workers
Last Wednesday, we saw inflation drop, and we’ll likely see this trend continue in coming months. Nonetheless, it’s expected that the inflationary rate will stay above the Bank of England’s target for much of the next year.
And businesses are not expecting interest rates to fall significantly any time soon – as the Bank of England has been clear in their “higher for longer” message.
On top of that challenge, our region’s firms are also facing difficulty in other areas, especially the struggle with labour market shortages.
In part, a shortage of staff is due to the fact that around 600,000 potential job seekers are long-term sick and many of the nation’s workforce are waiting to be seen by the NHS.
Last week, the CBI marked National Self Care week by highlighting the importance of the relationship between health and the workplace and what both Government and businesses can do to improve it. 38 per cent of businesses report that labour shortages have prevented them from seizing opportunities to grow.
With so many people unable to work due to ill health, at a time when firms are crying out for talent, there’s an indisputable case for business and Government to work together to improve the health of the workforce.
By focusing on preventative measures, we can also address many of these problems before they become as acute as those we’re seeing now.
So, ahead of this week’s Autumn Statement we are calling on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to expand non-taxable health support for employees.
Firms are looking to Government to make all Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) a fully tax-free benefit – supporting staff in looking after their health, including mental health.
We also need to see delivery on commitments to provide a targeted SME subsidy for procuring occupational health services.
By providing an 80 per cent relief on the cost of providing those services, firms have greater incentives to act.
Businesses – big and small – want to support their people.
This is just one of the ways the Government can make that easier for our region’s firms.
The UK’s workforce now spans over five generations, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that our one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellbeing is falling short.
New challenges are constantly emerging, including around caring responsibilities, and are often exacerbated by current pressures on household incomes.
It’s easy to complain about our unproductive workforce, but the Autumn Statement offers a real chance to help people stay in – or return to – work.
This week, the Chancellor has the opportunity to provide some much-needed relief to Yorkshire and Humber businesses and the people they employ.
Beckie Hart is Yorkshire and Humber regional director for the CBI