Tax demand issued over ‘workforce sickness epidemic’ battering UK economy | Personal Finance | Finance


The new Government should take action to provide more healthcare at work amid rising numbers of workers off work sick, an expert has said.

A recent survey by Simplyhealth found only 60 percent of workers have access to health cover, with concerns also surfacing about taxation.

Paul Schreier, CEO at Simplyhealth, told Express.co.uk that action is particular needed on health cover, but added: “The Government should also reduce the excessive and complicated tax burden placed on health cover products as widely agreed across business and healthcare, by offering tax incentives to encourage firms to offer health and wellbeing solutions.

“Critically, any incentives provided by the Government should enable employer choice over which services to put in place to meet employees’ need. This is so the health support offered adequately caters for the conditions most commonly faced by the industry.”

 

He said: “To unlock the potential of workplace health interventions and reverse the workforce sickness epidemic, the Government needs to go further in incentivising and enabling preventative health cover in the workplace.

“The Government should acknowledge low-cost health cover – such as health plans – as an effective method to aid tackling in-work sickness, improving productivity and driving down economic inactivity whilst meeting everyday healthcare needs and playing a role in the wider prevention agenda.

“As part of this, the Government must broaden its view of traditional occupational health (which tends to focus only on rehabilitation) to reflect wider health support already on offer – such as access to 24-hour GPs and virtual physiotherapy as well as mental health support through counselling.”

 

Mr Schreier spoke about the common conditions that cause people to have time off work.

He said: ‘We know that muscle and joint conditions – such as neck pain and back pain – and mental health concerns are the two most common causes of sick leave at the moment.

“Both can be made worse by home working, notably by inappropriate desk set-ups and the consequences of working in isolation.

“We know from our own research earlier this year that back pain has surfaced as a particularly pressing issue among the working population, with an estimated eight million sick days taken due to back pain last year (2023) and three-in-ten (29%) workers who suffer from back pain admitting to having thought about quitting their jobs due to health concerns.

“Common workplace health support provisions such as access to physiotherapy and counselling can help employees by providing quick diagnosis and treatment.”

However, he noted there has been a “real shift” in more employers providing health support for their workforce.

He explained: “This sea change is encouraging but we know it will take time for company policy and culture to catch up with the new offerings.

“Employers need to ensure they create a workplace culture that supports employees accessing health cover – there is no point in helping employees access GPs faster if they struggle to get the time off for the appointment they need.

“Culture change also needs to promote healthy living more widely – physiotherapy won’t be fully effective if employees can’t incorporate general movement into their routine; so for example, walking meetings and regular breaks should be encouraged.”

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